Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer bring years of writing for, editing, and even founding prestigious food publications to their Canal House project in Delawarepasta, where they eat, recipe test, and write. They’ve written a series of Canal House cookbooks; their latest, based on their popular lunch blog, is called Canal House Cooks Every Day.
They speak with Evan this week on the show, and they’ve shared this recipe for Cannelloni, a pasta stuffed with seasonings and four kinds of meat.
Make the sheets of pasta yourself with their method here.
From Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer’s Canal House Cooks Every Day, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012)
For the tomato sauce
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 onion, halved
4–6 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper
For the filling
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 chicken liver, diced
6 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced
6 ounces ground pork
6 ounces ground veal
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
For the balsamella
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups hot milk
¼ cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
Salt and pepper
To assemble the cannelloni
12 sheets Fresh Pasta, 4-5 inches each
1/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
2–3 tablespoons butter
For the tomato sauce, put the crushed tomatoes into a medium saucepan. Rinse the can with a little water to get the remaining tomatoes out and pour the liquid into the saucepan. Add the onions and butter and season with salt and pepper. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften and the sauce thickens a bit, about 30 minutes.
Taste the sauce. Depending on the acidity of the canned tomatoes you’ve used, you may want to soften the sauce; the more butter you use, the softer and rounder the flavors. On occasion, we’ve even added a pinch or two of sugar to balance the acidity. Remove and discard the onions from the sauce before using.
For the filling, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft, 3–5 minutes. Add the chicken livers, and cook until no longer pink. Add the chicken, pork, and veal and season well with salt and pepper. Cook the meat, breaking it up with a fork or the back of a spoon, until it is cooked through and much of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes.
Working in batches, transfer the meat to a cutting board and chop it until its texture is quite fine, like a coarse paste. Or, pulse the meat in a food processor until it just begins to hold together, but avoid turning the meat into a smooth paste. Season the filling with a couple pinches of nutmeg and a little more salt and pepper, if needed. Transfer to a mixing bowl and set aside.
For the balsamella, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Sift in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour loses its raw taste yet has not taken on any color (it should remain white), 1–2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk, then stir constantly until the sauce is as thick as heavy cream, about 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Add about 1/2 cup of the balsamella to the meat filling. Cover the surface of the remaining balsamella with a sheet of plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming and set aside in a warm spot.
To assemble the cannelloni, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook 2–3 sheets of pasta at a time until tender, about 30 seconds, then transfer them with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of cold water to cool. Lay the sheets of cooked pasta out on clean, damp kitchen towels in a single layer without touching. Cover with more damp towels.
Spread 2–3 tablespoons of the meat filling along the wide edge of a sheet of pasta, then roll it up jelly roll style. Repeat with the remaining filling and sheets of pasta.
Spread about half of the tomato sauce over the bottom of a large baking dish. Nestle the cannelloni, overlapping side down, into the dish in a single layer. Spread the remaining tomato sauce over the cannelloni. Spoon the reserved balsamella over the sauce, making a swath down the center of the dish. Sprinkle the top with the parmigiano and dot with small knobs of the butter. The prepared cannelloni will keep in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 2 days.
Preheat the oven to 375Åã. Bake the cannelloni until the sauce is bubbling hot and the top is lightly browned in spots, 15–30 minutes.