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I love cannelloni!
Just imagine the hot & bubbling mix of pasta & vegetables & meat or seafood covered in melted crispy cheese coming out of the oven… Remember how to attack the casserole in order to grab the 1st serving & transfer it onto a plate w/o any damage (it’s always easier when the 1st serving has left the casserole!).
Maybe it’s because a cannelloni dish is so easy & fast to prepare – maybe it’s because you can work w/ a large casserole of cannelloni & afterwards freeze the leftovers for another dinner. (Reheating in the microwave is always fine w/ cannelloni!)
On the other hand cannelloni are versatile: there is the classic version w/ minced meat for the filling & there is the more modern version w/ ricotta & spinach. You may add a classic béchamel sauce or a light tomato sauce…
…& you may create your very own cannelloni filled w/ whatever you like or whatever is available in your fridge resp. pantry.
For the record:
I’m not discussing any approach to homemade cannelloni i. e. preparing pasta from the scratch, roll out the pasta dough, cut out rectangular shapes, fill them, roll them up… I always work w/ ready to use cannelloni from my trusted food store which don’t need any precooking.
(…& it’s the same w/ lasagne!)
Today I’ll try cannelloni w/ shrimps & peas in creamy ricotta for the filling – everything covered by a thick tomato sauce.
On top there is a layer of grated parmesan melted into the tomato sauce… at the same time creating a savory crust. So we get a mix of a rather delicate creamy filling w/ shrimps & peas – inside – and cheesy crispness – outside.
What do we need?
- defrosted shrimps
- frozen peas
- spring onions
- crushed tomatoes (out of a can)
- tomato purée (likewise)
- dried Mediterranean herbs like thyme, oregano, sage & ground rosemary
- parmesan – freshly grated.
We start chopping the spring onions, pressing the garlic & chopping the shrimps.
All marches in a pan & we start frying in some olive oil. Finally – towards the end – we add the frozen peas. For the frying session think about 10 – 15 min.
Afterwards let the mess cool down in a separate bowl. (Drain the water – there’s always some water from the shrimps & the peas…)
For the freshly grated parmesan we start grating…
For the sauce we just mix the crushed tomatoes, the tomato purée & the herbs. Add a pinch of sugar.
…& now (latest!): Don’t forget to preheat the oven to 175° C w/ fan!
Mix the fried mess w/ the ricotta. It should be a creamy filling – not too dry, not too runny.
Now we are ready for the big action: filling the cannelloni.
- Cover the bottom of the casserole w/ tomato sauce.
- Fill each piece of cannelloni by pressing the tube into the mess – repeatedly… & the mess will walk upwards by itself.
- Line the cannelloni in the casserole.
Finally cover all cannelloni w/ tomato sauce.
…& at last sprinkle grated parmesan on top – generously.
Ready for the preheated oven!
…& about 30 min later: voilà!
You may serve each piece of cannelloni separately – if you like e. g. when you’re up to serve several courses during dinner & filled cannelloni are somewhat like a primo piatto.
Coming back to how to fill cannelloni…
- The filling must be soft & smooth.
- There shouldn’t be any chunks in the filling.
- Take a piece of cannelloni & put it headfirst in the filling.
- …into the filling: Repeat. Repeat. Repeat…
- The soft filling will automatically go up & fill the piece of cannelloni by itself.
I. e. you won’t need any spoons or a cone or even a piping bag…
However, it won’t work when the filling is too runny – which is unusual for any cannelloni filling. Also it won’t work if there are too many chunky pieces of meat or vegetables. (By experience: if you do a spinach & ricotta filling w/ long spinach leaves (the original leaves w/o any chopping) – forget this solution!).
If you work w/ fried minced meat make sure to add some tablespoons of tomato sauce (or béchamel sauce) to smooth the filling. For today’s cannelloni I used ricotta for smoothing. Liquid cream is also a fine solution.
The businesswoman w/ too many office hours thinks
Okay – the art of filling cannelloni is understood – & I don’t think I’ll use any other method i. e. I’ll always make sure to prepare a filling compatible w/ the approach.
For the sake of diversity: I just made another approach to cannelloni using cooked chicken breast (aka leftovers) finely minced (very finely minced!) w/ peas & liquid cream for the filling covered in tomato sauce w/ slices of mozzarella on top.