Since we had scratched pizza last Thursday — it was about time to bake bread again, so we just saved off about a pound to make up a pizza for a quick and easy meal — we had some pizza sauce left over. We really think of this as more of an all-purpose red sauce; sure, it’s not quite right, but it’ll do for the most part. So, we were left with the question of what to do with the leftover red sauce.
Most times, we just cook up some sort of pasta, perhaps linguine, after rolling and cutting a batch of pasta dough, but, after awhile, that gets boring. This time, we thought we’d try something new. But what?
Ultimately, we decided to modify a recipe for Potato and Pecorino Cannelloni with Tomato Sauce that we found in Pasta, by Gianni Scappin, Alberto Vanoli, and Francesco Tonelli. The book itself has numerous great-sounding modern Italian recipes with wonderful photos of some of the finished dishes. It’s a fun book to look through for ideas, as with today’s post.
Oh, and for a random lesson in Italian, cannelloni is plural; the singular is cannellone.
Makes 24 cannelloni
This is one place where using fresh pasta dough will shine. If you roll it very thin, there’s no reason to boil it up before baking; it will just cook in the red sauce. This is a great time and trouble saver when it comes to making lasagna, too. We think it more than offsets any effort used in making and rolling out the pasta. Plus, fresh pasta tastes far better.
We all know by now that Parmesan cheese is never packaged in green shaker cans.
And, finally, chervil? Well, we had chervil (similar to parsley) on hand, mainly because we’ll be making something using it in the future, but you could use parsley, basil, oregano, or even a mix, and it would taste good.
Procedure in detail:
There are really two parts to this recipe: make the cannelloni filling, then make the cannelloni. We’ll cover each in turn.
Cook onions. Place a small skillet over medium-low heat, add the oil and onions and let them fry, stirring occasionally, until very tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Don’t try to rush this, as you might end up burning the onions, which is not what you want. Instead, you want to cook these onions slowly to bring out the sweet taste. So be patient. Once onions are cooked, remove from heat and set aside.
Cook potatoes. Peel and quarter the potatoes and place them in a medium saucepan of salted water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are fork tender, about 30 minutes. Drain.
Mash potatoes and onion. Pour the onions and any oil into the potatoes and mash them together. Don’t worry about removing all the lumps. You want texture, not baby food!
Mix cheeses and herbs. In a medium bowl, mix together the cheese and the herbs. We like to mix them together first, because we know that the cheese will start to melt once we add the potatoes; this premixing will help ensure that we get an even distribution of the herbs.
Mix in potatoes. Now, add the mashed potatoes to the cheese mixture and stir with a fork. Using a fork will help keep the filling light, and won’t mash the potatoes into a glue-like substance. Once mixed in, you’re finished with the filling. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter a medium baking dish. In retrospect, we would have used one that would make a single layer, so think about using something about 9- by 13-inches. After buttering, place a layer of a cup of sauce on the bottom.
Roll pasta. This is so much easier using a pasta roller — look for them at garage sales or thrift stores; they show up often and they are inexpensive. Ours was around $5; we love it and think it’s the best $5 we’ve spent. Anyway, roll out your pasta dough as thin as you can get it, to form a sheet 3 to 4 inches wide and perhaps 30 inches long. Trim off the ends, and cut out 2 12-inch long sections. Return the scraps of dough for re-rolling. Dust one side with flour and place the sheets flour side down.
Fill, roll, and cut. Take forkfuls or spoonfuls of filling and form it into a log down the center of each sheet. Carefully roll the pasta around the filling. Use a finger dipped in water to dampen the edge of the sheet and seal up the log. Finally, slice the log into three 4-inch sections. Place each section on the bed of tomato sauce. Repeat with the remaining filling, making a second layer of sauce and cannelloni, if necessary.
Top with sauce and cheese. Spread remaining sauce on top of the cannelloni and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake. Cover and slide into the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Remove cover and bake an additional 10 minutes so the cheese can brown.
Serve immediately. Carefully remove cannelloni using a spatula, plate, and garnish with more Parmesan cheese, if desired. We desired.
We’ve wanted to try making cannelloni since we saw how easy they are. For some reason, we thought that they would involve a lot more work, perhaps making the tubes first, then piping them full of filling, or, well, we just didn’t know what it entailed. But, after making these, it turns out they’re easy; pasta dough is strong enough that it will stretch over the filling without tearing, making the sealing easy. We’ll give these four stars for two reasons. First, we think that the tomato sauce might be a mistake with a mild filling like potato. We really think that these would be better with a cream or cheese sauce, perhaps even a mushroom cream sauce. The tomato sauce is a bit too flavorful and doesn’t let the scratched pasta shine. Second, the potatoes could have used just a bit more of something. Just what, exactly, we’re not sure. Perhaps a stronger cheese along with the Parmesan, maybe Gorgonzola. Or perhaps a bit more in the way of spices; chervil is somewhat bland. So, again, four stars.