Sunday, March 3, 2013

Canneloni Florentine

This is a dish I first ate at a vegetarian Italian restaurant in Bangalore called Little Italy. Its one of the fewest restaurants where I did not miss meat!

Canneloni tubes - 12 tubes

For canneloni filling:
Butter - 4 tbsp
Onion - 1, chopped fine
Garlic - 6 large cloves, minced
Carrot - 2, peeled and grated
Spinach - 2 cups,chopped
White pepper powder - 2 tsp
Breadcrumbs - 2 tbsp
Feta cheese/Grated paneer/Ricotta cheese - 1/2 cup, crumbled

Cheesy Bechamel sauce:
Butter - 4 tbsp
Flour - 2 tbsp
Milk - 2 cups
Shallot - 1, whole, peeled
Cloves - 6
White cheddar cheese - 1/4 cup grated
Parmesan cheese - 2 tbsp. grated
White pepper powder - 1 tsp
Nutmeg powder - a pinch

Spinach layer: (optional)
Spinach - 1 cup, chopped coarsely
Olive oil - 1 tbsp
Rosemary - a small sprig

Tomato pasta sauce - 4 tbsp (optional)
White Cheddar cheese for garnish - 1/2 cup, grated
Parmesan cheese for garnish - 3 tbsp

Preheat oven at 350 degrees F.
Start with Bechamel sauce:
Take the whole peeled shallot and pierce cloves into it.
In a saucepan, pour milk and warm on low-medium. Place the piece of shallot with cloves into it, to allow the flavor to seep in.
In another saucepan, melt butter and add flour to make the roux. Mix for about a minute till the raw smell of flour is gone. Whisk in milk, little by little to get a creamy but less thick sauce. Add grated cheddar cheese and parmesan cheese. Take a taste test and adjust salt (as cheese contains salt too). Add white pepper powder and nutmeg powder.

For filling:
Melt butter in a pan. Saute chopped onions and garlic till its translucent. Then add grated carrots and salt. Now add chopped spinach, white pepper powder and allow for spinach to wilt. Turn off heat and allow the mixture to cool. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add crumbled feta cheese, breadcrumbs and 2 tbsp of the bechamel sauce.
Fill the canneloni tubes with this filling

Spinach layer:
Heat olive oil in the same pan used for filling. Add rosemary (rub it with your fingers first to release flavor). Then add chopped spinach and allow it to wilt.

In a casserole dish, first pour the cheese bechamel sauce.

Spread the spinach layer on top of this. Now arrange 6 or 7 canneloni tubes to form a layer. Pour more bechamel sauce over this. Sprinkle white cheddar sauce. Place remaining canneloni tubes to form second layer.

Pour remaining bechamel sauce. Spread pasta sauce or marinara sauce, if using. Finally sprinkle white cheddar and parmesan over it.

Bake the casserole for 40 mins.
Note: Do not make the bechamel sauce too thick, or the canneloni tubes will not cook.