Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Wonderful Fall Pasta Bake

I love the fall season - not only because of all the gorgeous colors on trees but also because I get to indulge in rich, comforting foods. As I've mentioned before, squash is a favorite seasonal vegetable of mine and any dishes that incorporate it make my mouth water. So when I saw the following recipe in Martha Stewart's Everyday Food mag (November edition), I just had to try it.

Using fresh ingredients such as butternut squash, sage and good cheese, it's hard to go wrong when making this--especially on cold, rainy nights. The preparation could get a bit messy but in the end it's worth it. I'd like to incorporate meat next time (maybe turkey), as this was a purely vegetarian dish. A way I changed it is that I substituted whole wheat pasta for plain white. Try it and tell me how you like it.

Squash, Sage and Ricotta Cannelloni

(serves 4)
3 tbs of olive oil, plus more for baking dish and sheet

Coarse salt and ground pepper

8 wide lasagna noodles - the recipe recommends using wide lasagna noodles instead of regular. I didn't have that so I used regular and rolled the filling into the lasagna. As a result, mine looked more like pinwheels rather than cannelloni and that was fine with me

1/2 butternut squash (about 1 lb), peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch chunks

2 shallots, chopped

1/4 cup plus 2 tbs of milk

1 tsp finely chopped fresh sage leaves, plus 8-10 whole leaves

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

2 cups ricotta cheese (15 oz)

3/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 2 quart or 8 inch square baking dish. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente. Using tongs, transfer pasta to a lightly oiled rimmed baking sheet. Add squash to boiling water and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain squash and transfer to a bowl.

In a small skillet, heat 1 tbs of oil over medium heat. Add shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl with squash and add 2 tbs milk, chopped sage, and nutmeg; season with salt and pepper. Mash with fork until a rough puree forms.

Spread 1/4 cup squash mixture cross-wide down the middle of each lasagna noodle; roll up noodle and place, seam side down, in baking dish. In a bowl, combine ricotta, 1/2 cup parmesan, and 1/4 cup of milk and season with salt and pepper. Spread ricotta mixture over cannelloni and top with 1/4 cup parmesan. Bake until warmed through, about 25 minutes. Broil until top is browned, 2 to 3 minutes.

Meanwhile in a small skillet, heat 2 tbs of oil over medium-high heat. Fry whole sage leaves until crispy, 15 to 20 seconds. Drain on paper towels. Serve cannelloni with fried sage.

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