Monday, June 13, 2011

Spinach and Sausage Cannelloni al Forno

There's a little restaurant just outside of Ukiah, California called Mario's Ristorante Italiano.  It's owned by some family friends of Justin's and Mario makes the best cannelloni I've ever had in my life!  He's inspired us to try, and try, and try again to make a cannelloni as good as his.  We can't.  But... our cannelloni is pretty freakin' awesome and this is the recipe for the last one we made!

Here to go with our cannelloni is Face to Face's cover of "Sunnyside of the Street", originally done by The Pogues.  The cannelloni made Justin think of this song because the first line mentions Rome... and we listen to a lot of Face to Face in our house. :)  -jen

  • 2 pounds mild Italian sausage (sometimes I use a mix of hot/mild)
  • 1.5 cups diced onion
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (divided, 2 tsp/2tsp)
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 6oz fresh spinach
  • 1 container (15oz) Ricotta cheese
  • 1.5 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1.5 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes packed in oil, diced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons good muffuletta (olive salad)
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chiffonaded (is that a word?)
  • about 12 crepes (see recipe below)
  • marinara sauce (see recipe below)
In a skillet, brown Italian sausage and onion.  Drain and return to heat.  Add 2 teaspoons minced garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring to keep the garlic from burning.  Turn off heat and immediately mix in all of the spinach (it will cook down).

In a large bowl, combine Ricotta, thyme, oregano, remaining 2 teaspoons of garlic, sundried tomatoes, egg, salt, and pepper.  Add sausage/onion mixture, muffuletta, and Parmesan, mix.  Add basil last.

Refrigerate for one hour (at the same time your crepe batter is refrigerating) so flavours combine.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Coat a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Spread a thin layer of marinara over the bottom.  Spoon filling into crepes, roll, and place seam-side down into sauce (it's okay for cannellonis to be touching).  Cover the middle with sauce.  I like to leave the ends exposed and sauce-free so they crisp up a little.  Sprinkle with some shredded mozzarella and bake for 30 minutes, or until the ends are browned.  Let cool slightly before serving.

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup diced yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 28 oz can tomato sauce (or 28 oz can whole pealed tomatoes blended till smooth)
  • 3/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp dried basil
  • 3/4 tsp ground oregano
  • 3/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
In a medium saucepan,  heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion and garlic.  Sweat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the wine and cook for 2 more minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients and turn the heat up to medium high, bring to a boil.  Once the sauce has come to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover for 25 minutes, occasionally stirring to make sure nothing sticks and that the simmer hasn't died.  This can be prepared ahead of time as the longer it sits, the better the flavor gets.  Make it a day ahead of time to get the best flavor result.

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • oil or butter to lightly grease a small frying pan.
Place all ingredients in the blender and pulse until thoroughly combined, roughly 30 seconds.  Pour through a strainer into a separate container for fridge storage.  Leave to sit for about an hour before using.  This can actually be stored in the fridge for up to 48 hrs if desired.

Coat a small nonstick pan with butter or oil (only a very light coating is needed), heating over medium high heat and pour 1 oz of batter onto the surface when the pan is hot.  Swirl the pan around till the batter is spread out into a "round" shape as thin as can be managed.  The batter begins cooking instantly so you won't have more than one roll of the pan to get the shape but that's alright as they are meant to taste good as opposed to look perfect.  After 30 seconds, use a spatula to flip the crepe and continue cooking 15 more seconds.  Set aside and lay flat to cool.  Once cool, they can be stacked and frozen for up to 2 months, used right away, or kept in the fridge for a day or two.