A Taste of Holidays: Cannelloni al Pesto

As someone use to sing "All good things come to an end" and so it happens to the holidays too. I know we wouldn't appreciate them as much if we'd be on holidays all the time, but it takes a certain kick in the behind to go back to work after enjoying a couple weeks of rest.
No clock to watch, no appointment to get to, just living on your own rythm, following the sun and your mood, does make your life feel smoother and peacefull.

Hopefully we all keep something from that inner peace and quiet that lives with us during that time, and take it with us to our daily lives. Obviously I need to watch the time again and follow my schedule, but beside that trying not to multi-task all the time, enjoying some time to just do nothing or do what I want instead of what I'm supposed to, is something I will try to apply to my daily life.

Holidays also mean time to cook, not that I don't take time the rest of the year (I have a food blog afterall!!), but cooking in a different place, not having to be finished at a certain time, always makes it a bit different.
Last month's daring kitchen challenge made us choose from the archive, and this recipe from the daring cook section immediatly sounded appealing: Cannelloni al Pesto! Without my pasta machine, it took a bit of work with the rolling pin, and even if it didn't end up as thin as with the machine, the cannelloni were lovely and tasted like holidays!

Cannelloni al Pesto


Ingredients (to make enough cannelloni for 4 persons):
100 grams (2/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons) (170 ml) (3½ oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
1 large egg

Directions: 1. Put the flour and eggs in a food processor and mix. When the dough looks like crumbs, pour it onto the bench top sprinkled with a little flour. Knead well by hand until you obtain a smooth dough. Make it into a ball, wrap it in cling wrap and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.
2. Now you are ready to make your egg pasta. Cut out a piece of egg pasta dough and flatten it into a rectangular shape with your hands. Put a little flour on it and begin passing it though the pasta machine. Turn the dial to the widest setting (#1) and, starting with one of the shorter sides of the rectangle, feed it through the rollers. Now fold one side of the piece of dough into the middle, then fold the other side over that to form 3 layers. Starting with one of the narrower sides of the folded dough, feed the pasta through the machine, again at the widest setting. Repeat the folding and rolling technique on the widest setting for at least a couple of times.
3. Now you can start rolling it thinner, by turning the dial to the next narrowest setting (# 2). Roll the pasta through the machine without folding the dough between settings. Keep reducing the settings until #7 (it is the second last on my machine – about 1 mm thick). If the sheet of pasta gets too long, you can cut it in half with a knife. To make cannelloni, cut out rectangular pasta sheets (10x15 cm) (4”x6”).


Ingredients (enough to make cannelloni for 4 people):
2 cups (500 ml) milk, hot
3½ tablespoons (52½ ml) (50 gm) (1¾ oz) butter
1/3 cup (80 ml) (50 gm) (1¾ oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 pinch salt
1 pinch nutmeg

Directions: 1. Put the butter in a non-stick pot and let it melt. Add the flour and whisk constantly until well incorporated: this is the “roux”. Let it cook for a minute or two.
2. Now start adding hot milk little by little, while mixing continuously until the milk is well incorporated. Do not add more milk unless it is well incorporated. Keep doing so until all the milk is incorporated.
3. Add salt and nutmeg and cook it on a low flame for 10 minutes or until it thickens.
4. When ready, cover it to prevent a film to appear on the surface.


Ingredients (serves 4)
Cannelloni sheets per recipe above (you should have about 8 sheets)

For pesto (makes about 190 gms/ 1cup)
2 cups (480 ml) (80 gm) (2¾ oz) basil, washed
¼ cup (60 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) parsley, washed
1 small clove garlic
3 tablespoons (45 ml) (25 gm) (¾ oz) Pecorino Romano, finely grated
1 tablespoons (15 ml) (10 gm) (¼ oz) Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
4 to 5 tablespoons (45 to 60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon (12½ ml) (5 gm) pine nuts
Salt to taste

For the filling
2 cups (480 ml) (500 gm) (18 oz) ricotta
¾ cup (180 ml) (150 gm) (5⅓oz) pesto (from the above recipe)
1½ cups (360 ml) (85 gm/3 oz) Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
1 pinch nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
1 small potato, boiled and sliced
8 green beans, boiled

To assemble
2 cups (500 ml) béchamel sauce
¼ cup (60 ml) (40 gm) (1½ oz) of pesto (from the above recipe)
½ cup (120 ml) (35 gm/1 oz) Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated

Directions: 1. Start by making pesto. Simply blend the garlic, pine nuts, salt, basil, parsley and half the extra virgin olive oil together (I use a hand blender to do this) until obtaining a fine paste. Transfer to a bowl, add the grated cheeses and the remaining extra virgin olive oil and mix well. Adjust salt to taste and cover it with a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil to prevent oxidation. Keep it aside.
2. To make the filling, mix the ricotta, ¾ cup (150 gm) of pesto, 1½ cups (85 gm/3 oz) of Parmigiano Reggiano, nutmeg, salt and pepper together until well combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.
3. Mix the béchamel sauce with the remaining pesto.
4. Put a large pot with salty water on the fire and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta sheets in it for 1 minute. Do this in batches (I use a shallow but large pot and I cook them in 1 layer, so I am sure they do not stick together). Remove them with a slotted spoon and put them on a clean tea towel to cool down.
5. Now take one sheet of cooked pasta and put 1/8 of the filling along the long side of the rectangle. Put 1 boiled green bean and 1 or 2 slices of boiled potatoes on top and roll the pasta over to make a cannellone. Do so for the remaining rectangles of pasta.
6. Take a big enough oven dish to fit all your cannelloni tightly. Spray the oven dish with some cooking oil (or melted butter) and pour some béchamel and pesto sauce on the bottom. Spread it well, especially in the corners. Put the cannelloni in the oven dish on 1 layer.
7. Cover the cannelloni with the béchamel and pesto sauce and sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup (120 ml) (35 gm/1 oz) of Parmigiano Reggiano.
8. Bake them in a pre-heated moderate oven 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 for 20 minutes, then broil (grill) them at 400°F/200°C for another 5 minutes.
9. Serve immediately.

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