09 September, 2012

Savory Sausage and Spinach Cannelloni

With fall approaching, I can't stop thinking about winter comfort foods. I may be jumping the gun, but I've already made Honey Spice Bread (which is similar to a gingerbread), and have been craving anything that has mounds of melted cheese (brought on by the best macaroni and cheese ever at Casellula in NYC).

So while looking to satisfy that hearty comfort food craving, but in a healthier way, I made this Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Cannelloni.  
This was so good, so warm and filling, and pretty healthy!
  The cannelloni filling is part spicy sausage and part turkey sausage that was sauteed and cooked down with onions and thyme.  The meat then was combined with sauteed garlicky spinach for a hearty, flavorful filling.  The cannelloni's were then placed on a bed of  a very quick raw tomato 'sauce', and topped with bechamel and parmesean cheese.
The cannelloni could easily be made ahead if you're planning on making it for guests or will be short on time.  You could also use jarred tomato sauce to save time.nThe whole thing can be assembled and refrigerated overnight, and then just popped it the oven when your ready!

The best part is the variations are endless! Have leftover chicken? Or even turkey?  Cut into cubes, add some broccoli, and you've got a variation of chicken and broccoli alfredo.  

             You could do sundried tomato, artichokes, and chicken.  Add a little ricotta if you desire..

You could do a caprese style cannelloni- fresh diced tomato, basil, and mozzarella.. maybe add some sauteed pancetta...  and top the whole think with more mozzarella.
I could go on..... but I think you get it ;)

Savory Sausage and Spinach Cannelloni

You will need:

For cannelloni:
1 box of oven-ready cannelloni
1/2 pound ground spicy sausage
1/2 pound turkey sausage
5 cups fresh spinach
2 white onions, cut into half moons (thinly sliced)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 tbsp fresh thyme
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Red pepper flakes (as desired, depending on how spicy you want it. I used about a tsp)

           *Tomato Sauce and Bechamel recipes follow

Preheat oven to 350.

1. Prepare the sausage stuffing. In a saucepan pan, heat a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil over med high heat. Add the onions. Saute onions until they begin to soften and are about halfway cooked, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Add all the sausage and thyme. Let cook down for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sausage starts to char and stick to pan. The slightly burnt bits will give it flavor.  Once that happens, pour in the wine to deglaze the pan. The wine will help release the burnt bits, scrape it all up! Let this mixture cook down for another 10 minutes, remove from heat and set aside.

2. Prepare the spinach.  In a large saucepan, heat a drizzle of olive oil (about 2 tbsp) over med heat.  Add the garlic.  Stir a few times, and start adding the spinach leaves.  Don't worry if they don't all fit in at once, just add as much spinach as you can, stir, add more spinach, stir, etc. etc.  The spinach will cook down, the garlic will cook as the spinach does, and you'll be able to fit all the spinach, no problem. The whole process will take under 10 minutes- spinach cooks pretty fast.  When spinach is wilted and cooked, drain in a colander.  Let cool in the colander.

3. Squeeze some liquid out of the spinach.  I pick up handfuls and squeeze the moisture out, or you can push down on it in the colander.  Then combine the spinach and the sausage mixture thoroughly.  Your stuffing is ready! 

For quick raw tomato 'sauce'
5 tomatoes, diced
Fresh basil, about 15 leaves, chiffonaded
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper

1. Add all ingredients in a bowl.  Mix!

For bechamel:
5 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
4 cups hot milk (pop in microwave for a minute)
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
white pepper

1. In a saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat.  Once melted, add the flour, whisking constantly.  Continue whisking for about 5 minutes, until the mixture begins to turn a light tan color.

2. Add the milk, 1 cup at a time, still whisking constantly. Bring the mixture to a boil, and cook about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and season with nutmeg, salt, and a couple shakes of white pepper.

To assemble:

1. In a large 15"x9" baking dish,  scoop in half of the tomato sauce.
2. Stuff the cannelloni with the stuffing mixture and place on top of the tomato sauce in neat rows.
3. Pour bechamel on top of the whole thing.  Make sure you get a little on the edges and corners of cannelloni or they will burn.
4. Top with remaining tomato sauce, and finish with sprinkles of parmesan cheese.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. 

No comments:

Post a Comment