Thursday, June 14, 2012


Blog's Category: DK Challenges

I was so excited when Cannelloni were declared for a June's DK challenge. I'm a big pasta lover, especially homemade. I'm not Italian, but my mom was making homemade pasta all the time. It was mostly the fettuccini style, long thin strips of dough that my mama was using mostly for chicken soups. Right now I have realized that this soup is actually well-known here in US chicken-noodle soup. But boy, what a difference ingredients make - for me, my mama's homemade soup is still on a top of it.
Back to Cannelloni - these are my first cannelloni. They have come out great. I'm suggesting two versions here: first one is my combination: cannelloni with crab/mozzarella/spinach filling, baked in bechamel sauce; second one is cannelloni with traditional ricotta/spinach feeling, baked in tomato sauce.  I have to say that being more "white sauce" person than "tomato sauce" one, I like first version more, although they both are good.
Crab, Mozzarella and Spinach Cannelloni
For about 12 large cannelloni:
3 eggs
2.5 c all-purpose flour
2 packs (about 30 oz total) of crab sticks (imitation, fish based)
1 bag of fresh baby spinach
1 ball (size of an apple) of fresh mozzarella
8 oz regular mozzarella, grated
3 tbs olive oil
3 tbs flour
2+ cups of milk
parsley, chopped very finely
1/5 tsp grated nutmeg
black pepper
red peppercorns (optional, you just may not know what you are missing on :)))
some olive oil

- Prepare dough for cannelloni: in a processor, process together eggs and flour until dough ball forms. If there is too much flour and it is all crumbles instead of forming ball, add a drop of water and turn processor on again. Transfer dough on a floured working surface, cover with a glass bowl or piece of plastic and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

- While your dough is resting, prepare filling and sauce.

- Cut your crab sticks into bite size pieces, transfer to a bowl and pour about 2 quarts of boiling water over it. Let it stay to cool down for about 30 minutes. Then, with your hands loosen up pieces of crab sticks to get some kind of strips. Drain it to get rid of water. Set aside.
- When your crab sticks are cooling down, prepare bechamel sauce. In a shallow pan or skillet, on a medium heat, cook 3 tablespoons of flour in an olive oil for about 2 minutes until bubbly. Add half of your milk and stir nicely. Turn heat to lowest setting. When smooth, add remaining milk and stir it until smooth. Add more milk if needed - you have to get smooth creamy but still runny consistency. Do not bring it to boil. Take out of heat. Add salt and nutmeg.

- Cut fresh mozzarella into small sticks.

- Let's get back to our dough. Knead rested dough a little bit until it's smooth and very pliable. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces (keep them under glass bowl). 

- In a shallow pot, bring water to a boil and let it simmer. Roll out one piece of dough into long oval. Drop this cannelloni sheet into boiling water.

- While first cannelloni cooked in water, roll out second piece. Take out first cannelloni from boiling water (I used slotted spatula for this). Place cooked cannelloni on a slightly oiled plate. Drop second cannelloni in a water and start to roll out the third one, and so on. Do not forget to spread a little olive oil on a cooked cannelloni before stocking next cannelloni on a top of it - in this case you won't deal with a pile of cannelloni sheets stuck together.

- When done cooking all cannelloni sheets, time to roll up! But first, prepare 2 medium sized baking dishes: spread half of your bechamel sauce onto bottom of those dishes.

- Assemble cannelloni: on one edge of cannelloni sheet put some crab strips. On a top of it, put fresh mozzarella pieces. Distribute fresh spinach on a rest of cannelloni sheet. Sprinkle a pinch or so salt and black pepper on a top of everything. Roll up tightly trying not to tear the pasta sheet. Do not worry if you do, just continue as is (it won't affect taste!). Place a roll in a bottom of "bechamelled" dish :) Continue with a rest of pasta sheets. Try to put rolls in a dish more or less loosely - it will be easier to serve it later on.

- Preheat oven to 375F.

- In a baking dishes, cover your cannelloni with remaining bechamel sauce and distribute grated mozzarella on a top evenly.

- Bake for about 1 hour or until top is beautifully golden crusted. Take out of oven.

- Serve with very finely chopped fresh parsley on a top and about 3 red peppercorns dropped on each portion. Previously, dry red peppercorns has to be soaked in hot water for about 5-10 minutes.

- Enjoy this very heartwarming dish! I know, it's a lot of work but even more joy to eat and feed your loved ones ;)

- If you have some ingredient left behind - just toss them together in a random pile, throw in a separate baking dish, cover with a bit bechamel and cheese and bake along with your pretty cannelloni. Your will get decent, totally edible lunch for tomorrow!

- Traditionally, bechamel sauce is made with butter. In this recipe I have used 1 tablespoon of ghee (clarified butter) and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I used to make bechamel with only olive oil and, honestly, do not feel any differences.

As you see, I changed my spatula to whisk - it's a better tool to get smooth sauce.

I like to scrape whole nutmeg - it's easy to do just with use of knife, no more.
Salt and nutmeg is added to my bechamel.

Silly me thinking this one dish will fit all of my babies :)

Red peppercorns are my latest obsession. When you bite on it - it bursts into array of flagrant tastes: first is flowerly sweet, then subtle, pepperishly tart and then is very pronounced distinct black-pepperish taste. Whole lot of experiences in a such a tiny drop. Love it! But as my late father always told me - it's not that tasty anymore when it's plenty. This pepper has to be used sparingly - 3-4 per single portion.

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

For about 12 large cannelloni:

3+1 eggs (one egg is for filling)
2.5 c all-purpose flour
3 c of ricotta (no questions - homemade is the best, but..)
2 bags of fresh spinach
1 c shredded parmesan
1 tiny can of tomato paste (about 4 tablespoons)
1 huge 32 oz can of whole tomatoes
some olive oil
1 tbs sugar
black pepper

- Preparation is very similar to Crab, Mozzarella and Spinach Cannelloni above. Just filling and sauce are different.

- For a filling, cook spinach in a shallow pan with a little water until wilted. Cool down and chop. Mix it with ricotta, parmesan, a little salt and pepper. Your filling is ready.

- For a sauce, process tomato paste with whole tomatoes, add salt to taste and sugar. Use this sauce the same way as bechamel sauce in the recipe above.



Note that this pasta is much thicker than above, for previous recipe. That is because dough turned out to be very tough and I was about to toss it in a garbage. Although, after relaxing for a while in a plastic bag in a fridge, it become pliable and was able to roll it. Despite this pasta making fluke, cannelloni were very good anyway.
Advantages of thick pasta - no torn pasta sheets, straight and strong as army soldiers :).

Two of them just didn't fit into "community" dish. So, here it is - individually baked cannelloni!

Blog-checking lines: 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!


  1. O, Olga , your cannelloni looks really good. :)

    1. Thank you! It's a lot of work though but so delicious. I just got an idea of simplifying it for everyday use - what if I'll use spring roll dough sheets from grocery's produce section, placing some filling on them, rolling and baking with some sauce and cheese?!

  2. Love the addition of crab to your cannelloni, looks so delicious. Great job!

  3. Your seafood version sounds great.

    And I totally agree about the red peppercorns. They have such a great flavor. I love, love. love using them.

    1. With red peppercorn - the biggest problem for me is to use it sparingly :)

  4. Awesome job! Both of your cannelloni look delicious! I love that you used crab and red peppercorns in your first one, very creative! :)

  5. I just LOVE that picture with the cheese melting through the edge
    You did a brilliant job on this challenge
    I really wanted to try a tomato sauce but ran out of time, will have to do it again soon

    1. I definitely will be making cannelloni again - I just need pasta machine!

  6. OK, your crab cannelloni are drool worthy! I am specially focused on the lightly browned cheese that tops them. Oh my, I just need to breath....fantastic job, they both look divine!

  7. Your photos are wonderful. What a great twist to use crab. I can imagine it tasted great.

  8. red peppercorn - I've never tried it. You describe it so lovingly that I now feel the urge to try it ASAP! The cannelloni looks divine.

    1. I tried red peppercorns for the first time just this year, being on vacation in Mexico, and 've fallen in love with this spice. I bought my red peppercorn on Amazon...


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