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Chef Walter’s Flavors & Knowledge: Butternut Squash & Sausage Cannelloni

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

 

Butternut Squash & Sausage Cannelloni

Cannelloni are the close cousins of Manicotti, the stuffed something popular in Italian American kitchens. Not sure if you know the difference of the two, but no worries most people are not aware either, so you are in good company.

Manicotti – which roughly means “sleeves” – is a filled crepe rather than actual pasta and is traditionally prepared in a special crepe pan. In Italy, one would be hard pressed to find “manicotti” on a menu as anything made from a crepe is likely to be called a “crespelle.” Cannelloni is a stuffed pasta dish. And although the stuffing, or ripieno, can often be the same, the element that sets the two apart is the actual construction of the dish. In making cannelloni, you start with a pasta sheet which you stuff and roll into a tube. The word “cannelloni” loosely translates to “big reeds” or “big tubes.” Or you can buy said big tubes ready for stuffing. Except in America, they're sold as manicotti. Are you still confused?

Serve 4

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 pound of sausage meat (roughly equivalent to a pack of 6)

Handful of sage leaves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano or mixed Italian herbs

1 cup ricotta cheese

3/4 cup Taleggio cheese, diced

1 large butternut squash

Pinch of chili flakes (optional)

2 tablespoons pine nuts

2 large handfuls of spinach

1 small handful of fresh basil

3 tablespoons of plain flour

3 cups whole milk

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

FOR THE FILLING

First, preheat your oven to 180C. Slice your butternut squash in half, lengthways and remove the seeds. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and a few chili flakes, if you want to. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until tender. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Once cool enough to handle, use a spoon to remove the soft baked butternut squash and set aside. Add half of your chopped onion to a pan with a little olive oil.

Fry gently until soft, then add your spinach, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, basil, sage and dried herbs and cook until wilted. Remove from the heat. In a large bowl, add your sausage meat, cooked onion, butternut squash, pine nuts, ricotta and Taleggio. Adjust the flavors with salt and pepper to taste. Combine using a spoon or simply your hands. If you are using dried lasagna sheets, now would be a good time to soak in boiled water. Move them around from time to time, to make sure they don't stick together.

FOR THE BECHAMEL SAUCE

Add your butter to a small non-stick pan and melt. Add the flour and cook through gently for a minute. Add a little milk and the mixture will form a clump. Keep adding the milk slowly, while still beating and the sauce will begin to form. Add milk until you are happy with the consistency and then add half of your grated cheese.

ASSEMBLE YOUR CANNELLONI

Spoon the mixture onto the middle of each lasagna sheet. Roll each cannelloni up and place it into a greased baking dish, seam side down. Repeat until you have filled your dish. Allow some space between the filled pasta. Especially along the perimeter of the dish, so that heat can penetrate. Then pour over your béchamel sauce. Sprinkle over your grated Parmigiano cheese and bake for 30-40 minutes until golden and bubbling.

Master Chef Walter Potenza is the owner of Potenza Ristorante in Cranston, Chef Walters Cooking, School and Chef Walters Fine Foods. His fields of expertise include Italian Regional Cooking, Historical Cooking from the Roman Empire to the Unification of Italy, Sephardic Jewish Italian Cooking, Terracotta Cooking, Diabetes and Celiac. Recipient of National and International accolades, awarded by the Italian Government as Ambassador of Italian Gastronomy in the World. Currently on ABC6 with Cooking Show “Eat Well." Check out the Chef's website and blog

 

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