Sunday, June 17, 2012

Spinach and Ricotta in Home Made Egg Cannelloni

J just leaned over my shoulder and said, "That looks sooooo good!!"
To which I replied, "Yeah, you already ate it. Remember?" 

To my delight, June's Daring Cooks Challenge was home made cannelloni. I've never made my own pasta. I've used my mum's pasta maker to make the ribbons on the famous and absolutely wonderful (that's high praise from an anti-cake person like me) Ribbon Cake from Bon Appetit, and I've used it to craft clothing for Fimo figurines when I was a pre-teen (generous mother), but I've never used it to make pasta.
I don't have my own pasta maker, so I rolled the cannelloni by hand with my poor little rolling pin. I very nearly threw out my dough directly after kneading it together, because it just seemed far too hard to me--I've only ever worked with bread or pastry doughs. Cross-checking a dozen different sources reassured me that the recipe I'd used was pretty traditional, and after letting the dough relax for about half an hour I was able to roll it out to a thickness which, while not quite what I'd get with a pasta maker, I declared thin enough to be delicious (and it was).

That was the hard work: rolling out the dough. Everything else was a snap, and if I'd had a pasta maker then getting beautiful, thin strips of pasta would have been much faster. I made my own ricotta as well, which I've been meaning to try for a while. I skipped the bechamel sauce, which makes this dish less traditional but a bit lighter. In retrospect, the cannelloni stuck together in the dish a bit and I bet the bechamel would have stopped that. I'll post the recipes for the egg pasta and the home made ricotta below, but otherwise I sort of winged it. You could stuff these with all sorts of delicious combinations. The filling seen here was probably a big bag of spinach that I wilted, squished dry, and mixed with the ricotta, some parmesan, an egg, and salt and pepper to taste. The tomato sauce was definitely just a can of chopped tomatoes simmered together with half an onion (later removed) and some (aka lots of) butter--this quick tomato sauce recipe is from Marcela Hazan and is an amazing transformation of a can of tomatoes that you wouldn't expect from such basic ingredients. I prefer it to most jarred tomato sauces. If you have some extra pocket money, splurge on a can of San Marzano tomatoes and everyone will be impressed.

egg pasta recipe
One dish worth of pasta dough

hand made pasta
Sad, droopy rolling pin has done a good job.
To make the egg pasta, you'll need:
100 g of flour (about 2/3 cup + 2 tbsp)
1 egg

You can start this dough with a food processor until it has the consistency of course crumbs and then turn it out onto your counter and knead it. You can knead it entirely on the counter in the traditional method, making a well in the middle of your flour for the egg. I think I used my kitchenaid to mix and then knead the dough for about ten minutes, before taking it out and kneading it by hand. Once the dough is smooth, you're done kneading (it does take a while) and you'll want to wrap it in plastic and let it sit for at least 15 minutes before rolling it out. If you find it too stiff, let it sit longer. 

Six little cannelloni, perfect for two.
Once you've rolled it out and cut it into rectangles (mine were probably about 4 x 6, but think about the size of the dish you want to fit them into), boil them each for ~1 minute and lay them out on a tea towel to prepare them for filling. Fill them with whatever delicious thing you like, and then fit them into your dish on top of a layer of tomato sauce (or some other delicious thing). Cover with more sauce and maybe some grated cheese, and then bake at 350 F for 20-25 minutes.
Home Made Ricotta:

The recipe I used for the ricotta is from Smitten Kitchen, so you should probably just head over there because Deb is lovely. 

In short, you'll need:
2 litres of milk and cream. I used about 7 cups of milk and 1 cup of whipping cream.
~ 6 Tbsp fresh lemon juice.
1 tsp kosher salt

Heat the milk/cream to 190 F, stirring from time to time. Remove the milk/cream from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and the salt. Let it sit for five minutes, then pour it into a cheesecloth-lined sieve and allow it to drain for 1-2 hours. Yum!