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Cover: Mamma Mia!

Recipes with nutmeg

12Sep 12

Beef Canneloni

Beef Canneloni

 

There are a million ways you can make canneloni. The combination of fillings and sauces are up to your imagination! My mum used to cook up a beef canneloni with a tomato filling, and so I followed suit. Of course I experiment with other possibilities, but I consider this the classic recipe.

Some people use the tomato sauce on the bottom of the baking pan, placing the canneloni on top of the passata and then smothering it with cheese. Others place the canneloni in first and then pour the tomato on top. My personal preference is combining the two and using both as filling, while drizzling over a delicious buttery cheese sauce. And if you really like cheese, you could sprinkle some extra on top afterwards!

Canneloni is a bit like lasagne: there are a million options for combinations, and the ingredients are made separately and then combined in the oven. Try this fantastic vegetable lasagne, and you’ll see what I mean.

Beef Canneloni
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
My mum's recipe for classic beef canneloni
Ingredients
  • 6 large canneloni tubes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 230g ground beef
  • 400ml passata
  • 25g butter
  • 12g flour
  • 170ml milk
  • 1 tablespoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 40g Parmesan cheese
  • 50g cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
Instructions
  1. Cook canneloni according to packet instructions.
  2. Next, pour 4 tablespoons of olive oil into a frying pan and sauté the onions and garlic for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the ground beef and fry for about 5 minutes.
  4. Next, pour in the passata, a pinch of salt, a couple twists of black pepper and the basil. Let it all simmer together between 15 and 20 minutes.
  5. While the meat is simmering, you can prepare the topping and preheat the oven to 200ºC.
  6. Melt butter in a saucepan. When completely melted, whisk in the flour for a minute or two. When completely dissolved, you can add the milk. This step should be done slowly and carefully so as to avoid lumps.
  7. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg and simmer for five minutes, until the sauce has thickened.
  8. Remove from the heat and add the Parmesan cheese and cherry tomatoes, stirring them all together.
  9. Take the meat and tomato mixture, stuffing it inside the canneloni.
  10. Gently place the canneloni side-by-side in a large baking dish, pouring the cheese sauce on top.
  11. Bake for 20 minutes and serve piping hot. But be careful not to burn your mouth!

 

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27Jun 12

Spinach and Rabbit Tortelli

Spinach and Rabbit TortelliniIn Italian, this dish is ‘tortelli di coniglio e spinaci’. Tortelli is, like ravioli, a variety of stuffed pasta, only more generously proportioned. As this is a bit more of a complex dish, perhaps the kind of thing you might cook for guests at a dinner party, my ingredients this time cater for a larger gathering. This is delicious and impressive handmade pasta with rustic rabbit appeal! (For a vegetarian-friendly filled pasta, why not give this pumpkin ravioli a go?)

 Ingredients:

  •  1 medium-sized rabbit (about 1.5kg), cut into 8 pieces*
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1celery stalk, roughly chopped
  • A generous handful of spinach (250g), finely chopped (no stems!)
  • 1 small sprig of rosemary
  • 6 sage leaves
  • 2 or 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 50g butter
  • 1 small glass of dry white wine
  • 1/2 a nutmeg seed kernel, freshly grated
  • 150g freshly grated Parmesan (or similar) cheese
  • Salt and pepper

* I almost always ask my butcher to do this for me!

Preparation:

1 –Melt half the butter in a large casserole or cast iron frying pan, and add the rabbit, carrot, onion, celery, bay leaves, and most of the rosemary and sage, setting a little of each aside (finely chop what remains, for later use). Season lightly with good quality sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Gently cook over a low heat for 20-30 minutes, occasionally turning the rabbit pieces: it’s nice if they’ve taken on a bit of colour before before adding the wine. Add the wine and cook till the rabbit is tender, which should take another 10-20 minutes.

2 – While your rabbit cooks, get your pasta ready: I’m assuming you’re using dough you made earlier (if not see my previous post about making pasta dough). Whether you’re rolling your pasta by hand or with a machine – and you really ought to use a machine for thin filled pasta – you need a thickness of about an 1/8th of an inch, i.e. not thicker than 3mm. What you want is a strip of pasta about 50cm long, and at least 15cm wide.

3 – Once the rabbit is cooked, remove the meat from the bones and set aside. Keep the bones and vegetables; we’ll need them later! Purée the meat in a food processor, pop it in a bowl, and mix together with the cheese, spinach and nutmeg, adding a little seasoning.

4 – Dollop 8 generous teaspoonfuls, evenly spaced (each tortelli should be about 6cm long) and just off-centre, along your strip of pasta, bearing in mind that you’ll be folding over the sheet, and that each little portion needs to be sealed around the three non-folded edges. Using the ‘heel’ of your clenched fist, thump the pasta dough between the portions of filling. Then, with as crinkly-edged pasta or dough cutter, first cut along the length of the pasta opposite the folded edge, before cutting width-wise, i.e. between each portion of filling (and don’t forget the ends!), to separate the individual tortelli. Set aside your pasta on a floured dish or tray as you make up the batches. *

5 – In your original dish, put 350ml of water and the bones and vegetables. Simmer for 10-15 minutes and then strain the liquid into a bowl and discard the bones and veg. Melt the remaining butter in the same pan, add the chopped parsley, sage and rosemary. Cook on a low-medium heat for a minute or two, then add the liquid stock you made earlier and a pinch of salt, and simmer until reduced to a third of the original amount. Remove from the heat and keep covered/warm.

6 – Check that your tortelli are all sealed and there are no ‘air pockets’, pressing the pasta lightly together with your fingers if need be. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, and cook the tortelli in several batches (3 or 4 is about right). The pasta should only need 2-3 minutes per batch. Add the batches to a large warm earthenware bowl (I cover it with a tea-towel to keep the pasta warm). When all the pasta is cooked, pour over the sauce, toss together to combine, and serve immediately.

* Confused? Admittedly this is a more complex recipe than most I’ve posted so far. There are videos of chefs making this on YouTube!

Makes: 6-8 servings.

Total Time – 2 hours (preparation, 40 minutes; cooking time, 1 hour 20 minutes)

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14Jun 12

Italian Classics – Lasagne

Lasagne

 

A classic Italian dish known all around the world, there’s no need to wonder why lasagne is so popular… it’s simply delicious! This recipe assumes you have some ready-made Bolognese sauce to hand. So, if you need help with that, look back through my posts for my spaghetti Bolognese recipe, and use that.

This recipe also calls for béchamel sauce, delicious and creamy. You can buy it at the store, but as always, I prefer to make mine from scratch. So the first step in the recipe below explains the method of preparation for the sauce using bay leaf, milk, butter and nutmeg. That is the first part of the recipe, and you´ll want to start with that.

Now the fun bit: assembling your lasagne. I like to imagine I’m laying the strata of rocks and earth in an imaginary edible geological cross-section!

Have a piquant peppery green-leaf salad with your lasagne, a salad with a bit of bite! Oh, and don’t forget, a hearty and robust red wine is an essential accompaniment. I know I should probably recommend an Italian wine, but I love Chateaneuf du Pape, when I can afford it! And afterwards, you can savour this Negroni cocktail, another Italian favourite!

Italian Classics - Lasagne
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
A classic Italian dish known all around the world
Ingredients
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 500ml milk
  • 40g butter
  • 40g flour
  • ½ teaspoonful of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 350ml (i.e. approx 4 servings) of Bolognese sauce
  • 160g dried lasagne sheets*
  • 100g grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • * Or you could roll out your pasta dough if you have some you’ve made yourself.
Instructions
  1. To make the béchamel sauce, bring the milk to a simmer in a pan with the bay leaf in it. Take off the heat and stand for 15-20 minutes to infuse the milk with the flavour of the bay leaf. Melt the butter in another pan, over a low heat. Add the flour and stir.
  2. Watch closely and monitor the heat. In a minute or two, the flour and butter mixture will have combined and ‘cooked’. Remove from the heat and slowly and gradually add the infused milk, having first strained it through a sieve to get rid of the bay leaf (and anything else that might make the sauce lumpy!), stirring all the while.
  3. Once it’s all combined and you’re sure it’s mixed smoothly, return to the heat and gently simmer until it thickens, which should only take a minute or two. Add the grated nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Next, get started on your pasta. I’m assuming the use of dried pasta sheets for this recipe. Cook them in batches in salted boiling water, until al dente, as usual.
  5. As you take each batch out, drain off excess water, rinse in cold water to refresh, and lay on a kitchen towel or tea towel, to absorb any moisture.
  6. While you’re doing this, you can reheat your Bolognese sauce in a pan or microwave.
  7. In a suitably sized ovenproof dish, start with the Bolognese sauce: go for three layers - you should have the perfect amount of everything enabling you to divide the pasta, Bolognese and béchamel sauces in thirds. So on top of one-third of your meaty sauce, put one-third of the béchamel, then a layer of pasta. Repeat the process two more times, reserving a little béchamel for the top of the last layer of pasta, before finally sprinkling over the Parmesan. We sometimes add small amounts of Parmesan in each layer as well, over the béchamel sauce, for added cheesiness.
  8. Bake at 220ºC until the top turns a beautiful golden brown, which should take 15-20 minutes, and then remove from the oven and let stand for about 5 minutes, before serving.

 

 

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About Gianluca Dievole

My Badge: Assistant

About

Buon' giorno! Welcome to my Italian food blog. I am Italian, and proud of it! Italy has so much going for it: with one foot quite literally in the beautiful Mediterranean, my country’s climate and location give us an amazing cornucopia of ingredients, which is why our culture is steeped in a hearty romantic culinary tradition. My wife and I love our food, so all my recipes are designed for two. If you're cooking for an average sized modern family - perhaps not the traditional extended Italian family - just double the quantities.