Valentine’s Day has crept up on me this year! About a month ago, I totally had it in the back of my mind that I was going to prep all kinds of Valentine’s Day-appropriate recipes and get them up on the blog ahead of time for you guys to enjoy. Well, V-Day is tomorrow, and as you can see… that didn’t happen. Sorry guys! There’s still time to get one quick recipe in, which should be sure to impress.
Daren and I pretty much never go out on Valentine’s Day itself. It always seems like too much of a hassle – crowds, trouble getting a reservation, and often food that just isn’t worth it, since the restaurants are packed and may be overwhelmed. We usually go out the week before or the week after (if at all), then prepare a nice meal at home for ourselves on February 14. Trying to decide what to make is always an adventure I like to make something special, maybe a little more complex than usual, for us to celebrate with. This year, I was thinking homemade pasta might be a great way to go! I spent some time perusing Domenica Marchetti’s The Glorious Pasta of Italy, and when I came across these cannelloni I was sold. The filling is similar to what my grandfather uses to fill his tortellini, so I knew we would enjoy it. It was certainly a labor of love – taking me about 2 hours of prep time before baking – but the end result was worth it! Plus, the recipe makes 2 9×13″ trays, so you can always freeze one for later (or share the love with family/friends). Speaking of sharing the love, this would make a great dish for a dinner party, since it makes a decent amount of food and is homey and comforting, yet impressive at the same time.
For the tomato sauce, I used some sauce we had in the freezer, that I don’t have a specific recipe for. Basically all I do is take a couple of cans of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes and blend them up in the blender. Sauté some onions and some garlic, then pass the blended tomatoes through a food mill or mesh strainer into the pot. Add some tomato paste, salt, pepper and oregano (plus any other spices you’d liked – basil, rosemary, etc.) and simmer for a while (we usually let it simmer an hour or 2, depending on how big the batch is). It’s easy and delicious, and you can store it in smaller servings in the freezer for occasions just like this one. Of course, if you prefer you can always use a jarred sauce.
For the filling:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 10 ounces boneless pork shoulder or pork chop, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 10 ounces boneless veal shoulder or veal cutlets, cut into 2-inch pieces
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 6 ounces prosciutto di parma, coarsely chopped
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 3/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano or pecorino-romano cheese
- pinch of grated nutmeg
- 12 ounces baby spinach leaves, rinsed
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
For the pasta:
- 5 ounces all-purpose flour
- 5 ounces semolina flour
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cups tomato sauce
- 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
To make the filling:
In a large sauté pan, heat the oil and butter over medium heat until the the butter is melted and the oil is shimmering. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften – about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional 30-60 seconds, until fragrant. Arrange the pork and veal in the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover the pan and cook for 12-15 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through. Uncover and season with salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the wine. Continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated (2-5 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.
Once cooled, transfer the meat mixture to a food processor and add in the prosciutto. Process in short pulses until the mixture is finely chopped – be careful not to overdo it and allow it to become a paste. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. In a separate small bowl, stir together the eggs, cheese and nutmeg. Fold this into the meat mixture.
Place the spinach, with some rinsing water still clinging to it, in a medium pot placed over medium-low heat. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the spinach is wilted. Drain the spinach, squeezing out any excess water, then finely chop. Add the spinach and the heavy cream to the meat and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
To make the pasta:
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the eggs and olive oil. With a fork, whisk together the eggs and oil, gradually drawing in flour. Continue stirring until the flour is incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a clean, floured work surface and begin kneading the dough. Continue kneading by hand for approximately 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and silky. Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Once rested, divide the dough into 4 equal parts. Use a pasta roller to stretch the dough, 1 piece at a time, into thin sheets (I went to a #6 on my Atlas machine, 1 number thicker than I would go for cut pasta). For detailed steps on how to roll homemade pasta dough, see this tutorial.
Cut the pasta strips into 4×5″ strips. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, laying out a slightly damp kitchen towel next to the stove. Have a large bowl of ice water ready as well. Cook the pasta strips in batches, about 5 at a time, cooking each batch for approximately 60-90 seconds. Use a large skimmer to remove the pasta from the boiling water and transfer it to the ice water. Once cooled, lay the pasta strips out on the prepared towels. Continue until all the pasta has been par-cooked.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Heat the tomato sauce gently over the stove, until warm. Spread a thick layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of 2 9×13″ baking dishes. Spread approximately 2 tablespoons of the meat filling onto each pasta rectangle, leaving a border around the edges. Roll up the pasta rectangles, cigar style, and place them seam-side down into the prepared baking dishes. Each dish should contain approximately 10 cannelloni.
Divide the remaining sauce between the 2 pans, spreading it over the filled cannelloni. Cover the dishes with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil from the dishes and sprinkle the cannelloni with the shredded mozzarella. Continue baking for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown.
Yield: 20 cannelloni (8-10 servings)
Source: Adapted from Domenica Marchetti’s The Glorious Pasta of Italy