Cannelloni alla Tripepi ….
I recently spent a wonderful week in Cape Town flitting from one restaurant to the next; and spending some quality time with my son Daniele’s girlfriend, Suzanne. I must admit that I didn’t do much in the way of cooking at his house this visit as there seemed to be a never ending string of social engagements. YAY!!
I was only too happy to opt for sun downers, picnics and sunsets on Signal Hill and at Spier Wine Estate, luncheons at the Waterfront at the Greek Fisherman, fantastically refreshing and not too sweet lemonade in Long Street and a couple of sensational and incredible value for money, sushi dinners at Minato . This visit was more about restaurants less about stoves.I don’t think that I will ever get bored with looking up from a plate of great food or out of the window and seeing that exquisite mountain. I get such a thrill from its majestic presence and find that my batteries get super-charged when I visit Cape Town.
I did get to cook “in front” of the camera for once which was the most amazing experience! I will devote an entire post to this experience as soon as I know what will be done with the footage! Watch this space!
I got to cook in Ishay Ypma’s beautiful and very sexy kitchen. Ishay is the blogger extraordinaire who brings us the Best Food Blog of the year blog – ‘Food and the Fabulous”. We churned out a batch of home-made taglietelle together using some rather unusual and challenging flour, made a spicy Chorizo and Prawn Pasta Sauce and clobbered a good few bowls of Ishay’s absolutely smashing raspberry semifreddo. All this food was sent on their merry gourmet way with a bottle (or two) of delish Chardonnay – my plunder from our Spier Picnic.Home-made lemonade ….. juicy!
I have been literally missing in action for a while for which I offer my apologies but sometimes life hands one mammoth chunks of ‘stuff’ and we find ourselves having to knuckle down and do the needful, looking neither left nor right and devoting our ‘all’. I am observing my oft given advice – tits out, chin out and am following my nose for this too shall pass.
That’s enough whining from me; let’s talk food!Easter Sunday is coming up, which for la casa Tripepi means, food, family and lots of both! Daniele and Suzanne are arriving from the Cape for the holiday and my Easter Sunday lunch table promises much laughter and revelry and I just can’t wait. In order to navigate all of my commitments and the celebratory meals of the moment I shall have to get my act together and plan ahead.
Cannelloni is the perfect dish for such a large family gathering, and the real bonus is that it can be prepared well in advance in large quantities and frozen ready for a large crowd of hungry Easter bunnies. It’s a great way to say goodbye to the solemnity of Lent and celebrate with family and friends.
I make my own fresh pasta when I make cannelloni, click here for the recipe for fresh pasta and a step by step guide to mastering a hand cranked Italian pasta machine. If you don’t have a machine or are not inclined to make your own pasta, simply buy a box of the ready-made cannelloni shells. The easiest method of filling the shells is by piping the mince into them and, believe me, I have tried every method and this one saves time and is far less effort. The recipe can be divided up into three parts and I generally make the pot of tomato sauce and the mince and spinach cannelloni filling one day and the fresh pasta and béchamel sauce the following day. This béchamel recipe is a Tripepi favourite – it produces a sauce that is jam packed full of amazing flavour.
The Tomato Sauce
Olive oil, enough to cover the bottom of your pot
1 large or 2 small Onions finely chopped
2 large cans of Italian plum tomatoes – squashed in a bowl
1 large handful of fresh basil
2Tbs of chopped fresh garlic
1 chicken stock cube
1 glass of dry white wine
Brown the onion and garlic in the olive oil. Add the white wine and cook out all of the alcohol.
Add the chicken cube, black pepper and tinned tomatoes and bring to the boil.
Reduce down to a simmer for a further 20 minutes, and add the basil whole so you get the flavour of the basil and can
take it out when the sauce is cooked.
The Bechamel Sauce
1 onion cut into quarters
2 bay leaves
10 black pepper corns
1 chicken stock cube
nutmeg – a good 1/2 tsp
8Tbs of flour
10 Tbs or 250g of butter
Place the milk, onion, black peppercorns and bay leaves into a saucepan and gently heat to just below boiling point ,
reduce the heat and steep for about 20 minutes.
Sieve out the onions, peppercorns and bay leaves, discard them and allow the milk to cool.
The secret to a great béchamel is to cook your butter and flour until it turns a nutty brown colour. You will notice that I use quite a lot of butter (can you hear my hips groaning) – this keeps the sauce from getting lumpy. Butter is like mascara – you just can NEVER use too much!
A good béchamel sauce will raise your cannelloni up to superstar Diva status
Melt your butter in a heavy based pot – add the flour and mix with a whisk and keep stirring while it cooks on your stove. You are looking for a nutty brown colour. When the mixture turns dark – slowly add your milk about half a cup at a time, whilst stirring constantly. This requires quite a bit of elbow grease!
When all of the milk has been added and the béchamel is cooking nice and gently on the stovetop grate at least 1/2 a tsp of nutmeg into the sauce, add a good 1 ½ cups of strong cheese, pecorino or a mature cheddar are the best and season the sauce well with plenty of fine black pepper and some salt until your taste buds do a happy dance!
750g beef mince and 250g pork mince.
2 glasses of dry white wine
3Tbs of finely chopped garlic
2 finely chopped onions
500g of readymade creamed spinach
2 – 3 eggs
1 x 250ml container of fresh cream – my hips are screaming!
1/4tsp grated nutmeg
2 chicken stock cubes
2 tsp dried oregano
4Tbs of chopped fresh basil
Plenty of black pepper
1/2 a 475ml can of Italian Peeled tomatoes – place into a bowl and squashed into pulp by hand.
Heat your oil in a pot, add the chopped onion and garlic and brown – now add the mince and brown it well, your mince needs to be well browned – this is what gives your sauce a good deep flavour.
To lift the delicious meat caramelisation off the bottom of your pot and into your sauce you add the wine and cook until all of the alcohol is cooked off.
Add the ½ can of tinned tomato, 2 tsp of oregano, fresh basil, chicken stock cubes and black pepper.
Cook together for about 10 minutes and all of the liquid from the tomatoes has gone.
Add the creamed spinach and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Take the mince off the stove, whisk your eggs, nutmeg and cream together and add to the mixture.
This filling must be nice and thick, no liquid at all.
Put the filling into a piping bag with no nozzle.
Cook your Cannelloni –
either the shells or use fresh sheets of cooked pasta which you fill, roll up and place into an ovenproof dish. If you are cooking the boxed ready made cannelloni cases – make sure that you cook just a few, say 4 at a time in a large pot of salted water at a rolling boil.
Fill your Cannelloni with mixture and place them side by side on top of the tomato sauce in your dish.