Saturday, June 16, 2012

Down the Tubes with the Daring Cooks


Pasta dishes are perennial favorites in the Monkeyshines household: we make some sort of pasta almost every weekend, and so we were delighted to learn that the Daring Cooks challenge for June was to make cannelloni. (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!)

Part one: Monkey flies solo

Cannelloni – pasta tubes - are fact Mrs Monkeyshines’ favorite pasta form factor, so it was ironic that our first foray into this challenge was a solo effort from The Monkey while his better half was out of town one weekend. Normally, when we make cannelloni, lasagna, tortellini or ravioli we have a real production line going: he is responsible rolling the pasta, whereas she cooks and fills it. This time, however, I did all of the work myself, which was a lot more work that it seemed – particularly as, in addition to the pasta it involved making the filling, a bechamel and passata from scratch.

I chose to make Cannelloni Rossini, using a recipe from the renowned Welsh-Italian chef Franco Taruschio. (When I was a lad growing up in Wales, I was fortunate enough to visit his restaurant, The Walnut Tree). The filling starts with a mirepoix, to which are added veal, chicken breast and chicken livers - with porcini mushrooms, parmesan cheese, madeira and some egg to bind it together.

filling prep
from top to bottom: mirepoix, meat and chopped porcini mushrooms

The filling is pureed (hence looks a bit like baby food in the photo) but is very tasty. The cannelloni are coated in a bechamel, then topped with some passata and parmesan cheese.

Cannelloni Rossini filling – tastes better than it looks!

The pasta came together quite easily, since as noted above we do this most weekends. We use a ratio of 2 cups of flour to 3 eggs, though sometimes increase the ratio of egg yolk to egg white for a richer product. (For a demonstration of kneading pasta dough, see here).

Top left - ready to mix; top right – kneaded before resting in the fridge for an hour. Bottom left – ready to roll! bottom right – pasta squares ready to be made into cannelloni

Next up – assembly. This was the part of the operation that I don’t usually do, and it seemed to take forever! Fortunately, the filling was quite thick and easy to roll up into nicely packed cylinders.

Top left – boiling for just a few seconds; top right – draining over the sink.
Bottom left – ready to roll! bottom right – In the pan, before adding the sauce

The bechamel and passata were not hard to make, but for one person I wondered if this endeavor would have been worth the effort? It was. This was an incredibly rich and flavorful cannelloni, and I would definitely make it again.


Part Two: Looks just like part one!

For our second cannelloni, we made a variant of the spinach and ricotta cannelloni recipe provided by Manu, our gracious challenge host. We were cooking for company, and when the ricotta and spinach came together we were nervous that it might not be enough, so added some crumbled Italian sausage to the mix. This turned out to be a good move, both from the point of view of flavor and quantity.

Not so many pictures this time, since we didn’t want to abandon our guests to take photographs of our food. However, as you can see from the photo at the start of the post, the finished product looks just like the first one on the outside: cannelloni covered in white sauce with a drizzle of tomato. It’s completely different, honest! Just to prove it, here’s a cutaway:


Thanks again to manu for an excellent challenge!


  1. Great job! And way to go doing part one on your own.

  2. Well done!

    The first one sounds really yummy. Perhaps for our next attempt...

    Stay JOLLY!

  3. Love the addition of sausage to the 2nd filling. They both look great!