Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sausage, Spinach and Cheese Cannelloni

I only posted one time last week.  Have you made chicken noodle soup yet?  If not, hop to it.  What're you waiting for?

As for me, I have no excuses for only one post in a whole week.  Besides the fact that my jeans are in storage. That's my excuse for everything these days.

So anyway.  I'm trying to make up to you for my absence last week.  And I present to you cannelloni:

It's cheesy (wouldn't y'all know) pasta deliciousness.

To make the filling, you'll need eggs, ricotta (homemade is particularly delicious), Parmesan, spinach, sweet Italian turkey sausage and onions.

Start off with the turkey sausage.  This sausage is sometimes in the freezer section...and sometimes not.  But it's just delicious.  And sweet is essential...but you could use hot or mild if you like.

Take off the casings by using a knife to slice the casing open and squeezing out the sausage.

And saute it with an onion.

And drain it well.

Now mix the other ingredients for the filling together.

Don't forget the spinach!

When the sausage and onions are cool, mix them into the filling too.

This is really good.  This filling would be really delicious in a lasagna as a substitute for the usual ricotta cheese mixture.  I'll be trying that soon.

Now prep your baking dish.  You'll need a 10x15 size because this makes a whole lot of pasta.  Spray it with cooking spray and then scoop about a cup of marinara sauce into the bottom.

Okay, we're ready to roll.  Take your pasta that you've cooked (if you don't have time for fresh pasta, manicotti tubes would be a good substitute for the fresh pasta sheets) and scoop a generous amount of filling in the middle.

Roll it up, and place it seam side down in the baking dish.

And just keep rolling...

It's okay that they're not perfect.  They're so good.  That's all I can say.

So I had a few sheets of extra pasta left.  And since I refuse to waste the fruit of my labor, I just laid them on top.

Like little blankets to keep the whole thing nice and warm.

Pour the rest of the sauce on top.  It will seem like a lot, but you need it.  The pasta practically drinks the sauce and by the time it cooks, it won't be wet anymore at all.  It will be just perfect.

Now let's cheese it.  Provolone first...

I think the cameraman stole a little chunk of my cheese.  Now for the shredded cheese...

Now bake it until really bubbly.

Are you kidding me?  Is this speaking to you?  Listen....then go make this.  Now.  It's one of the best pasta dishes I've ever eaten.  And I'm not just saying that.

But the hardest part is....now you have to wait.  Give it 15-20 minutes after you take it out of the oven so it doesn't become a sloppy mess when you cut into it.  Give it a rest, then cut it with a sharp knife and use a spatula to scoop it out.

It's absolutely out of this world.

Sausage, Spinach and Cheese Cannelloni
Heavily Adapted from Kelsey Nixon

1 onion, chopped
18 oz. sweet Italian turkey sausage, removed from the casings
30 oz. container Ricotta cheese
6 oz. (1 1/2 cups) shredded Parmesan cheese
10 oz. box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
3 eggs
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 recipe Fresh Pasta OR a box of dried pasta like manicotti or jumbo shells, cooked according to package directions
1 recipe Marinara Sauce OR 2 large jars of pasta sauce (like Prego)
8 oz. shredded Italian blend cheese
8 oz. shredded Mozzarella cheese
12 oz. provolone cheese, sliced or shredded

Saute onion and sausage in a large skillet, crumbling the sausage as it browns.  When the sausage is cooked through, drain it on a paper-towel lined bowl or plate and allow it to cool to room temperature. (Turkey sausage is pretty lean, so you won't have much fat to drain.)

In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, Parmesan, spinach, eggs, pepper and red pepper.  Mix in the sausage and onion mixture.

Spray a 10x15 deep baking dish with cooking spray and then spread about 1 cup of the marinara sauce in the bottom.

Fill the pasta with generous amounts of the filling and roll the pasta around the filling.  Place the pasta rolls, seam side down, in the bottom of the baking dish.  If you have any extra pasta sheets, you can lay them on top of the rolls when you are done.

Cover the pasta with the rest of the sauce.  Top with the cheese.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for an hour.  Remove the foil and bake another 30 minutes, until very bubbly and the cheese is just starting to brown around the edges.

Allow it to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes when you remove it from the oven.  Cut into squares and serve with crusty bread and garlic butter.

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