Cannelloni

There are more recipes from Sardinia to follow, but for now let’s go to Emilia-Romagna for some classic meat-filled cannelloni. Cannelloni can be made using fresh pasta or store-bought pasta, and they can be filled with either spinach and ricotta or with meat. The meat filling can be ground beef and pork sausage, as below, or pork with prosciutto and mortadella. The cannelloni are cooked in the oven with tomato sauce and besciamella (white sauce). There is some similarity to lasagna; the main difference is that for lasagna the meat is mixed with the tomatoes and for cannelloni the meat is in the pasta and the tomatoes outside of the pasta. Just like lasagna it is a bit of work, but worth it and it can be made ahead and just needs to be baked in the oven to serve.

Ingredients

Makes 10 cannelloni, serves 2 as a generous main course

300 grams (.66 lb) ground beef

150 grams (.33 lb) sweet Italian pork sausage (salsiccia), taking out of its casing and chopped

40 grams carrot, minced (1/4 cup)

40 grams celery, minced (1/4 cup)

40 grams onion, minced (1/4 cup)

80 ml (1/3 cup) red wine

1 egg

freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

1 Tbsp butter

4 Tbsp olive oil

10 store-bought cannelloni, about 110 grams (there were 23 pieces in a 250 grams (8.8 oz) package)

1 can (400 grams/14 oz) peeled tomatoes, pureed in the food processor

salt and freshly ground black pepper

some basil leaves, torn into pieces

1 clove garlic

white sauce made using 250 ml (1 cup) milk, 2 1/2 Tbsp flour, and 2 Tbsp butter

Instructions

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan. When the oil is hot, add minced onion, carrot, and celery, and season with salt. Stir over medium heat until the vegetables start to color, about 5 minutes.

Then add the ground beef and sausage.

Break up the meat with wooden spatulas, and cook it until the raw pink color has disappeared.

Add 80 ml red wine.

Bring the wine to a boil, then stir over medium heat until it is almost dry. Turn off the heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Allow to cool somewhat.

To make the tomato sauce, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan. When the oil is add, turn off the heat, tilt the pan, and deep fry a peeled garlic clove (cut into 2, if you like) until golden. This will flavor the oil with garlic flavor. Discard the garlic.

Add a can of peeled tomatoes, pureed in the food processor, to the garlic-flavored oil.

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and bring to a boil.

Then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring now and then, until the tomato sauce is nice and thick, 10 to 15 minutes.

Once the meat has cooled enough that it won’t cook the egg, transfer it to a large bowl. Add an egg and a generous handful of freshly grated parmigiano reggiano (about 25 grams/1 oz).

Stir to mix.

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F. Grease an oven proof dish with a bit of olive oil. Cover the bottom of the oven dish with a thin layer of the tomato sauce and scatter with some basil.

Fill the cannelloni with the meat stuffing. You can do this with a small spoon or with the help of a piping bag.

Place the filled cannelloni in the oven dish on top of the tomato sauce.

Cover with the remaining tomato sauce and scatter with basil again.

Prepare the white sauce and pour it on top.

Sprinkle generously with freshly grated parmigiano reggiano and dot with small pieces of butter. Up until this point it can be prepared ahead and refrigerated.

Bake at 190C/375F until the top is golden brown, about 35 minutes.

Wine pairing

This is excellent with a Sangiovese di Romagna, to stay in the region of the dish. A ripe and round Chianti would work too (because of the creaminess of the besciamella, an austere Chianti would not work.)

Flashback

Frico is a typical dish from the Italian region of Friuli in the North-East. It is made from potatoes and Montasio cheese. Sometimes also onions are included.

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