Thursday, 16 January 2014

Three Cheese Meat Cannelloni

Three Cheese Meat Cannelloni

I always wanted to cook something Italian. Someone would think they would make a simpler dish when trying a new cuisine for the very first time. I guess I’m just not that ‘someone’. I like challenges. I like to push the limits of things that seem difficult to do, hence I opted for a recipe that had four elements to conquer. Was I able to?? Hell yes!! (psssttt: I say this so confidently because it is now done and ready ;) ) The empty bake dishes at the end of meal clearly indicated that! ;-) 

How did I come across this recipe?? I went online to search for cannelloni recipes. I found three that I liked. There were some elements to each recipe that did not appeal to me. I finally decided to mix and match ingredients to my liking. I adjusted the method to my way of cooking in the kitchen. Voila! I had a new recipe ready to be tried and tested. I tasted each element as I made it (very important). I adjusted the flavors to perfection because I realized that even one ‘off the mark’ flavor would result in a mediocre dish. Even after having done that I was 'shittin' bricks' (pardon the rude expression, but there is no other way to describe my anxiety after having slogged in the kitchen for so many hours) wondering if the dish would turn out as well as it had turned out in my mind when I penned the recipe.

I was temporarily staying at mum and dad's house when I made this hence sent one bake dish to my Grumpy Tomcat to be baked in the oven at his home so that he could have it piping hot, straight out of the oven. My heart went thumpity-thump waiting for the phone to ring. Ring, it did!! It was Anita (my daughter from another mother). She said, 'Aspi Uncle tried the bake dish.' The word ‘tried’ hit me. Tried? Did that mean he had a bite and didn't like it. My heart sank! I then heard her giggle at the other end of the line, she said, 'well, he tried it....’ I said, 'and?' 'He tried it and he liked it so much that he polished it off', she said. Yayyyyyyy.. 'Game-Set-Match'. I say this because Grumpy happens to be most finicky person in regard to food. If he liked it then to me it was the equivalent of winning the gold medal. 

The dish as I said earlier has four elements (five, if you count the last baking process) to it, and if you're going to be making as much as I did (because I had guests at mom and dad's place) then rest assured you are going to have to slog in the kitchen for quite a few hours but.. but.. but.. take it from a lazy bum like me, this dish is sooooooooooooo worth the time it takes to prepare.


18 Oven Ready Cannelloni
250 grams Mozzarella Cheese, sliced into 1 inch pieces
250 grams Ricotta Cheese, sliced into 1 inch pieces
100 grams Parmigiano Cheese, grated

Ingredients for Béchamel Sauce:

6 tablespoons all purpose flour/maida
6 tablespoons butter
3¾ cups milk (about 750 ml)
1 bay leaf
Salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Method for Béchamel Sauce:

  1. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit but does not color.
  2. Pour in the milk, stirring continuously as sauce thickens. Bring to a low simmer.
  3. Add bay leaf, salt and black pepper to taste, lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from heat and cover with cling-film.
Ingredients for Mince:

1 kilo mutton or beef mince
2 onions, very finely chopped
2 green chilies, slit, deseeded n chopped fine
15 white button mushrooms, chopped fine
8 large cloves garlic, finely chopped or use a garlic crusher
½ - 1 teaspoon red chili flakes (more if you prefer a spicier hit in the mouth)
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon coriander leaves, finely chopped
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 tablespoons EVOO
1-2 tablespoons butter

Method for Mince:

  1. Heat a large skillet, when hot, add EVOO, add onions, green chilies, garlic, mushroom and sauté till onions are translucent. About 5 minutes
  2. Add the mince and break it up well with a wooden spoon till it all separates and is finely broken down.
  3. Add dried thyme, chili flakes, salt, freshly ground pepper and sauté well.
  4. Cook the mince till about 80-85% done. Remove from the stove and set it aside for about 20-30 minutes to cool. (It should be cool enough to prevent the cheese in the cannelloni from melting)
Ingredients for Tomato Sauce:

1-2 tablespoons EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
2 onions, very finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
6 cloves garlic, crushed
900 grams tomatoes, blanch, remove eye, peel and puree (should give you about 800 mils)
2 tetra pack cartons of tomato sauce (200 mils each)
1 teaspoon dry oregano
5-6 fresh basil leaves, roughly shredded into small bits (by hand)
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Sugar, to taste (optional - if the tomato gravy is too acidic - I added 6 teaspoons)

 Method for Tomato Sauce:

  1. Heat EVOO, add onions, green bell pepper, garlic, sauté till onions are softened.
  2. Add the pureed tomatoes, tomato sauce, dry oregano, salt and freshly ground pepper. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, till the raw smell of the tomatoes evaporates.
  3. Add sugar to taste if the sauce is to acidic.
Method for Filling Cannelloni:

  1. Fill 1/3 of the cannelloni with the mince mixture. 
  2. Push in a small chunk of mozzarella cheese. 
  3. Top another 1/3 of the cannelloni with mince. 
  4. Push in another small chunk of mozzarella cheese. 
  5. Top the remaining 1/3 cannelloni with mince. 
  6. Repeat with all cannelloni.
Method for Layering:

  1. Line the base of a pyrex bake dish with 30% of the prepared tomato sauce.
  2. Arrange the cannelloni on the tomato base in the pyrex dish.
  3. Pour over the remaining prepared tomato sauce over the cannelloni to coat it thoroughly, ensure that all pasta is covered with the sauce as that is how it cooks, by the liquid that touches it. (As I read somewhere in an online cannelloni recipe, the Italians grandmas say, ‘no sauce – no soft’)
  4. Sprinkle the grated Parmigiano. 
Method for Baking:

In the oven

  1. Preheat oven to 180 deg C / 350 deg F.
  2. Cover the bake dish with an aluminum foil and bake for 60 minutes.
  3. Remove the foil after 60 minutes, top with béchamel sauce and chunks of ricotta cheese and bake uncovered for 20 minutes more.
  4. Remove from oven and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes before serving. Serve with garlic bread. from oven and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes before serving. Serve with garlic bread.
Chef Notes:
  1. I can't stress enough the importance of this point when I say please taste each element for seasoning and flavor when you cook it, even one element off the mark will turn this exceptional dish into a mediocre one. 
  2. This quantity made two bake dishes; I used 10 cannelloni in one and 8 in another smaller bake dish. Feel free to halve the ingredients if you choose to make just one bake dish. 
  3. You may share the direct blog-link of the recipe/s but do NOT publish my recipes and my photographs on any blog-site or website without my explicit consent or attempt to pass off my recipe/s as your own. You will be held accountable for plagiarism. 

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