Cannelloni di Magro for Daring Cooks

I was shocked to discover that Italians do not put chicken with pasta.  All these years I have been doing it  wrong.  Of course, I was also calling mannicotti, cannelloni.  And using the terms interchangeably.  Bad, bad, bad.  What was on my menu as cannelloni, it turns out, was actually mannicotti, since I have always used crepes instead of pasta.  Well, except when I bought the tubes of dry pasta on occasion.  So there you have the history of my culinary wrongdoing.

Manu from Manu’s Menu was our Daring Cooks lovely June hostess and has challenged us to make traditional Italian cannelloni from scratch! We were taught how to make the pasta, filling, and sauces shared with us from her own and her family’s treasured recipes!

I am now on a reformed course.  However, possibly I wasn't too, too off the mark, as far as chicken goes, since technically, the filling was in CREPES, not pasta.  So there.  It has always been a very handy way of using up a bit of left-over meat.

 I decided to do the Cannelloni di Magro version of the various ones suggested, using grated zucchini instead of spinach.  According to our hostess, “Magro” means “lean”, but when used in a recipe it actually means “without meat”, so it is a vegetarian dish."   Our market's organic spinach selection didn't look all that great, so going with locally grown zucchini seemed a better bet, especially paired with some fresh garden herbs.

A few green onions, basil and parsley were added to kefir cream cheese, Monteray jack, which I happen to prefer to mozzarella (so kick me) and parmesan Reggianito cheese, mixed together with the grated zucchini for my filling.  After grating your squash, be sure to salt and drain on paper towels for 30 minutes or so.  Then squeeze any extra liquid out before adding the other ingredients.

 The directions for the bechamel sauce and the pasta I followed as given.  I did notice that the amount of flour called for was more than what I usually need, but did it anyway.  Yes, as it turns out, I had to add more milk (and some wine) to get it right.  Other than that, everything went great.  The pasta was as easy as doing a batch of crepes.


From the Daring Cooks challenge 6/12 - note - I am giving the original version.  My changes are noted above.


Making egg pasta is very easy. You only require eggs and flour (Italian 00 or all-purpose flour) in a proportion of (1 egg per 100 grams of flour).

Ingredients (to make enough cannelloni for 4 persons):
100 grams (2/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons) (170 ml) (3½ oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
1 large egg

1. Put the flour and eggs in a food processor and mix. When the dough looks like crumbs, pour it onto the bench top sprinkled with a little flour. Knead well by hand until you obtain a smooth dough. Make it into a ball, wrap it in cling wrap and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.

2. Now you are ready to make your egg pasta. Cut out a piece of egg pasta dough and flatten it into a rectangular shape with your hands.  Just use a rolling pin to get a very thin sheet of dough and then cut it into rectangles.
If the sheet of pasta gets too long, you can cut it in half with a knife. To make cannelloni, cut out rectangular pasta sheets (10x15 cm) (4”x6”).


Ingredients (enough to make cannelloni for 4 people):
2 cups (500 ml) milk, hot
3½ tablespoons (52½ ml) (50 gm) (1¾ oz) butter
1/3 cup (80 ml) (50 gm) (1¾ oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 pinch salt
1 pinch nutmeg

1. Put the butter in a non-stick pot and let it melt. Add the flour and whisk constantly until well incorporated: this is the “roux”. Let it cook for a minute or two.
2. Now start adding hot milk little by little, while mixing continuously until the milk is well incorporated. Do not add more milk unless it is well incorporated. Keep doing so until all the milk is incorporated.
3. Add salt and nutmeg and cook it on a low flame for 10 minutes or until it thickens.

4. When ready, cover it to prevent a film to appear on the surface.

Note: If you still get a lumpy sauce, do not throw it out. You can still save it and make it smooth by using a hand stick blender.

Ingredients (serves 4):
Cannelloni sheets per recipe above (you should have about 8 sheets)
2 bunches (500 gm) (1 lb) spinach (raw to be cleaned)
1-2/3 cups (400 ml) (400 gm) (14 oz) ricotta
2 cups (480 ml) (120 gms) (4 oz) Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated, divided
Salt and pepper
1 pinch nutmeg
1 large egg
Béchamel sauce as per above recipe

1. Clean and wash the spinach. Cook them for 2 minutes in salty boiling water. Drain them and run some cold water on them to cool it down quickly (this will help them retain a nice green colour). Keep them in the colander for 1 hour to lose the excess water. Then squeeze them with your hands to get rid of as much liquid as possible. Now cut them finely with a knife.
2. Put the ricotta in a bowl, add the minced spinach, egg, 1½ cups (85 gms/3 oz) of grated Parmigiano Reggiano, nutmeg, salt and pepper and mix until well combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.

 3. Put a large pot with salty water on the fire and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta sheets in it for 1 minute. Do this in batches (I use a shallow but large pot and I cook them in 1 layer, so I am sure they do not stick together). Remove them with a slotted spoon and put them on a clean tea towel to cool down.
4. Now take one sheet of cooked pasta and put 1/8 of the filling along the long side of the rectangle. Roll it over to make a cannellone. Do so for the remaining rectangles of pasta.

 5. Take a big enough oven dish to fit all your cannelloni tightly. Spray it with some cooking oil (or melted butter) and pour some béchamel sauce on the bottom. Spread it well, especially in the corners. Put the cannelloni in the oven dish on 1 layer.
6. Cover the cannelloni with the remaining béchamel sauce and sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup (35 gm/1 oz) of Parmigiano Reggiano.

 7. Bake them in a pre-heated moderate oven 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 for 20 minutes, then broil (grill) them at 400°F/200°C for another 5 minutes.
8. Serve immediately.

 This was way easier than I thought it was going to be, and what a delicious dinner, paired with a simple salad and a nice white wine.  I had a glass of  "Argentina's  most popular white wine", a delightful Sauvignon Blanc blend, called "New Age", with a bit of sparkle to it.


Swathi Iyer said...

Delicious Cannelloni , I make bechmel sauce with less all purpose flour.

chef_d said...

Wow zucchini in your filling looks so delicious. Great job!

shelley c. said...

Great cannelloni! You did such a great job on this challenge.

Anonymous said...

Oooh, your cannelloni sound wonderful! :)

Sawsan@chef in disguise said...

I too had no ida the italians didn't put chicken in their pasta
You did a great job on the challenge and your filling sounds really good

Ruth Ellis said...

Mmm - this looks fantastic with the courgettes - yum!

Don't Make Me Call My Flying Monkeys! said...

Zucchini...be still my heart. Your cannelloni look wonderful! fantastic job.

Joanne said...

I love the sound of this zucchini filling! Perfect for summer when I'm craving something light but comforting as well.

Debra Eliot said...

I never knew the difference either. I guess I though manicotti was a meat dish and cannelloni was a veggie version???? (I have no idea where I came up with that!?!) I think using zucchini is genius!

Zoka said...

Your cannelonni look amazing!
I love zucchini filling. Nice job :)