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.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Marinara Sauce

Yesterday we made fresh pasta for cannelloni.

Today is the second installment in the preparation of said cannelloni.

This marinara is super quick and easy.  And good, too.  I love it with angel hair pasta and Parmesan cheese on top.

Just start with two onions in some olive oil.

After a few minutes, throw in some garlic and stir it around.

Next we need the tomatoes - I forgot to take a picture but I just used two 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes.  Nothing fancy.  Pour them in.

Add the seasonings - salt, pepper and sugar.  Simmer for about 30 minutes on low heat.

When the sauce has finished cooking, cut some basil leaves into strips.

Stir it up and serve immediately with angel hair.  Or cannelloni.  That's coming up tomorrow.

Marinara Sauce:
Inspired by Kelsey Nixon

3 T olive oil
2 onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 28-oz. cans crushed tomatoes
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 T sugar
20 leaves fresh basil, sliced

Saute the onions in the olive oil in a large skillet for about 8 minutes over medium heat, stirring often.  Add the garlic and cook another 4 minutes, stirring often.  Pour in the tomatoes and stir well.  Add the seasonings, stir, and cover.  Simmer over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes.  Remove from the heat and add the basil leaves.  Serve immediately.  Also stores well in the refrigerator.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fresh Pasta

Have you ever had fresh pasta?

I hadn't.  Until I got this

nifty little mixer attachment for my 30th birthday.

And my hopes of having a skinny decade were instantly dashed.  Darn.

The thing is, that fresh pasta is to dried pasta like fresh peaches are to canned peaches.

Maybe that was a bad analogy.  Because I actually happen to like canned peaches.

But the point is that fresh pasta is not even close to being in the same league as the dried stuff in a box.  It's not even like majors v. minors.  It's like a whole different game altogether.

I've made pasta with my attachment several times, and each time my technique improves.  I'm evolving, you could say.  Or at least my pasta is.

Since I've had a request to post how to make fresh pasta, here we go.  It's really not hard.  The recipe is pretty fool-proof and the technique is something you just have to try until you feel comfortable.  That's the great thing - if you mess up one sheet of pasta, just fold it over itself and put it through the pasta roller again.

Now you can be fat, too.

Okay!  Start the bowl of your mixer.  And add some flour, salt, water, and eggs.

I got this recipe from the recipe book that came with my pasta roller.  I just made the "Basic Egg Pasta" because I don't even know what Semolina flour is.  Much less where to buy it.

So you want to just follow the directions:

Stir the ingredients together with the paddle attachment of your mixer.

Until the dough is crumbly and looks about like this:

Okay, now switch to your dough hook and mix another 2 minutes.

And it should be even more crumbly like this:

Take it out of the bowl and just form it into a ball with your hands.  As you can tell, the dough is very firm.  That's exactly what you want.  It will still be a little crumbly, but that's okay.

And now you want to knead it for 2 minutes.  This will make it smooth and elastic.

Now that you've given it a good workout, let it rest for 20 minutes.

While it's resting, get the the attachment ready to go.

Take the little knob off of the front of your mixer and fit the attachment like this

Just be sure you screw it into place so it doesn't fall off.

And be sure the thickness knob is set on one.

Now back to our dough.  It's had a nice rest so we're ready to cut it into fourths.  If you want to freeze some/all of your pasta dough to roll out later, here's your chance.  Just put it into a freezer bag and throw it into the freezer.  When you're ready to roll later, let it come to room temperature before you put it through the roller.

Take one of the quarters and flatten it out a little.

Turn your mixer speed on 2 and slowly feed the dough through the pasta roller.  It's thick, but this is the thickest setting.  So it will work.  Trust me.

Feed the dough through a couple of times - still on the first setting - before you fold it into thirds:

And feed it through again.

Okay!  Now we're ready for a big step - setting number 2.

It's starting to get thinner!  Run it through setting 2 twice before you move on to setting three.

It's getting longer, too.  Run it through twice on setting four now.

By the time you get to the fifth setting, your pasta is super long and super thin.

 Now, this part just depends on how thin you like your pasta.  For lasagna, or cannelloni (rolls of pasta stuffed with meat/cheese), I like to stop on setting five.  Any thinner than that, and it's simply too thin and it will tear while you are cooking the pasta.

Since I'm making cannelloni, I'm going to stop now.  And here's what each fourth of the pasta dough now looks like:

See how long it is?

Now we need to stack up the pieces so we can cook them.  This step involves a lot of flour and a medium-sized mess.

Unless you have your 3-year-old helping you.  Then it's a lot of flour and a very large mess.

She wanted you to see her hand.

Sprinkle a generous amount of flour on your counter and lay the first sheet of pasta on top.  Cut it so that it is about 6-8 inches long.

Now sprinkle even more flour on the sheet of pasta

And cut another piece to go on top.

And just keep cutting and stacking until you have a nice pile of fresh pasta, waiting to be cooked.  You should get about 4 six-inch pieces of pasta out of each quarter of dough.

At this point you can either leave them in sheets or you can cut them into strips for fettuccine or tagliatelle.

Now we're ready to cook it.  Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.

Salt it generously (a couple of tablespoons) and add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.

I don't normally oil my pasta water, but I make an exception for fresh pasta.

Fresh pasta is relatively delicate (compared to lasagna noodles in a box, which are a first cousin to rubber) and the oil keeps these noodles from from goming* together and making a pasta glob in your pot.

*gom - a made-up verb straight from a holler in Eastern Kentucky meaning "to make a mess."  As in: "I just hate it when my pasta goms."

You can add the pasta all at once and it won't stick together - provided that you followed the instructions above and oiled the water.

Stir it around while it cooks.  Cook it for about 2 minutes.  And then drain it.

You'll want to separate the sheets pretty quickly so they do not gom*.

*see definition above

We're through with this pasta post now.  You can go make lasagna now.  Or you can make the cannelloni that I'm going to show you later this week.

This stuff is worth the work.  It's absolutely delicious.

Fresh Pasta
Adapted from KitchenAid

4 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 T water
3 1/2 cups flour

Add the ingredients to the bowl of your KitchenAid mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix for 30 seconds.  Change to the dough hook and knead on speed 3 for 2 minutes.

Remove the dough from the mixer and form it into a ball.  Knead it for two minutes until it becomes firm and elastic and smooth to the touch.

Let it rest for 20 minutes at room temperature.

Cut the dough into fourths.  Flatten each fourth roughly into a rectangle.  Fit the pasta roller attachment on the front of your mixer and turn the dial to level one (for the thickest pasta).  Turn the mixer on speed 2 and feed the rectangle of pasta dough through the roller.

Feed the dough through twice before you fold it into thirds and feed it through twice again.

Change the pasta roller thickness to level 2 and feed the dough through at least twice, doing the same for levels 3, 4, and 5.

Lay the pasta on the counter and cut each long strip into 6-inch strips.  Sprinkle flour on the counter and in between each sheet of pasta, stacking them on top of each other.  Generously flour in between each sheet of pasta because they will stick together.

When you have processed all of the pasta sheets, bring a large pot of water to a boil and sprinkle in a generous amount of salt and olive oil (about 2 tablespoons of each).  Add the pasta sheets and cook them for 2 minutes.  Drain into a colander and immediately pull the sheets apart (use tongs for this).  Proceed to use the sheets for lasagna or cannelloni.