Cannelloni with Chicken Sausage & Spinach

Cook, Mains, Recipes, Sunday Supper

Cannelloni with Chicken Sausage & Spinach

This recipe is the ultimate comforting Sunday supper, with fresh pasta, sausage, cheese and two savory sauces. You can also use purchased dry cannelloni tubes for ease; cook them in salted water, then stuff and bake as directed in the recipe.


Cannelloni with Chicken Sausage & Spinach


For the filling:

2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 lb. (375 g.) spinach, tough stems removed

Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper

3 Tbs. unsalted butter

2 oz. (60 g.) pancetta, cut into small dice

1 cup (6 oz./185 g.) minced shallots

1 lb. (500 g.) sweet Italian-style chicken sausages, casings removed

1/2 tsp. ground fennel

1/2 lb. (250 g.) fresh white mushrooms, brushed clean, quartered, and sliced thinly

1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g.) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Egg pasta

Kosher salt for cooking pasta

Extra-virgin olive oil for greasing

Simple tomato sauce (recipe follows)

Bechamel sauce (recipe follows)

1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g.) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


To make the filling, in a large frying pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, about 4 minutes. Season lightly with sea salt and remove from the heat. Let cool, and then squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Chop and set aside.


Rinse the pan, return it to medium heat, and melt the butter. Add the pancetta and saute until nicely colored, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate and set aside. Add the shallots to the pan and saute until tender, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the sausage meat, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and the fennel. Saute, stirring to break up any clumps, until the sausage meat is lightly colored on the outside and just barely pink on the inside, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the spinach and saute for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the pancetta and the cheese. Set aside.


Make the pasta dough as directed, then roll out the dough into sheets 1/32 inch (1 mm.) thick. Cut the pasta sheets into about twenty-four 3 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch (9-by-11.5-cm.) rectangles. In a large pot, bring 5 qt. (5 l.) water to a rapid boil. Add 2 tablespoons kosher salt and the pasta rectangles, in batches, and cook for 1 minute.


Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Grease two or more baking dishes each large enough to hold 12 cannelloni. Reheat the tomato and bechamel sauces. Smear a layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of each baking dish. To fill the cannelloni, put a generous tablespoon of the filling along a short end of 1 rectangle and roll it up, making a small, secure bundle. Transfer the bundle, seam side up, to 1 of the prepared baking dishes. Repeat to assemble the remaining cannelloni. When all of the cannelloni are in the baking dishes, smear with a generous layer of tomato sauce and top with the same amount of bechamel. Sprinkle evenly with the cheese. Cover the dishes with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes to heat through. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the bechamel forms a golden crust, about 5 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6.


Simple Tomato Sauce


2 1/2 lb. (1.25 kg.) fresh plum tomatoes, peeled and seeded, or 1 can (28 oz./875 g.) plum tomatoes, drained

1/3 cup (3 fl. oz./80 ml.) extra-virgin olive oil

6 cloves garlic, lightly crushed but not minced

Fine sea salt and freshly ground white or black pepper


Coarsely chop the tomatoes, place in a colander in the sink, and let drain for 5 minutes. In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and saute, pressing with the back of a wooden spoon to release its juices, until it takes on a rich golden color but has not yet turned brown, 1-2 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic and immediately add the tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, and season to taste with pepper.


Using a fork or potato masher, press down on the tomatoes to break them up until they are in fairly fine pieces. Raise the heat to high and bring the tomatoes to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes form a thick sauce, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and use right away, or let cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Makes about 4 cups (32 fl. oz./1 l.)


Bechamel Sauce 


2 1/4 cups (18 fl. oz./560 ml.) milk

4 Tbs. (2 oz./60 g.) unsalted butter

3 Tbs. unbleached all-purpose flour

Generous pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Fine sea salt


In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan, then remove from the heat. While the milk is heating, in a heavy saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the flour, stir vigorously with a wooden spoon to remove any lumps, and cook, stirring continuously, until aromatic but not brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 3-4 minutes.


Return the pan with the flour to low heat and slowly drizzle in the warm milk, whisking constantly. (If lumps start to appear, either you are adding the milk too quickly or the heat is too high.)


When all of the milk has been added, raise the heat to medium and bring to a boil, whisking constantly and making sure to reach the bottom and sides of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and simmer gently, whisking often, until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes.


Remove from the heat and evaluate the consistency of the sauce. If lumps are still visible, pour the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into heatproof bowl. Use right away, or cover, pressing plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the sauce to prevent a skin from forming, let cool, and refrigerate for up to 5 days. To reheat, warm the sauce in a pan over low heat, and whisk in warm milk to thin as needed. Makes about 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml.)


Williams-Sonoma The Pasta Book CookbookAdapted from Williams-Sonoma The Pasta Book, by Julia della Croce (Weldon Owen, 2010).

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