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Author Notes: The inspiration for this recipe came from a lasagna dish I once made in huge quantities for a winery event. The delicacy of freshly made pasta is unsurpassed in this recipe, but the variations I've noted below will produce delicious results. I didn't provide a recipe for the basil pesto because I make mine in large quantities and freeze. I do always blanch my basil before processing to rid it of the brownish tannins that turn pesto so dark and this sets the color a nice green. I roast the mushrooms rather than sauteing for a number of reasons: to cut down on the fat, to intensify the flavor, and to have a method that's mostly hands off. I'm lucky to live where I can forage for wild mushrooms and usually make this with a variety of types. But the cremini take on wonderful properties when roasted and just lend a different flavor to the sauce than the wild ones. And are easier and less expensive to find! Organic unsweetened soy milk is very good in the white sauce. Using homemade ricotta is especially nice here, but a good quality brand that has the "best by" date as far out as possible works fine. I'm blessed with three hazelnuts trees on my property and love their unique taste with pesto. - Amber Olson
For the Mushroom Sauce:
- 1 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt + more to taste
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
- 2 garlic cloves, about 1/4 ounces
- 1 tablespoon brandy
- 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- Fresh ground pepper
- 40 ounces milk of your choice, whole, 1%, 2%, or unsweetened soy milk
- 1/2 small onion, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- reserved mushroom stems, chopped
- reserved mushroom water
- 1/4 ounce dried porcini (optional)
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 tablespoons all purpose flour
- salt to taste
- 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Brush any dirt from the mushrooms. Trim off stem ends and reserve. Cut the mushrooms into 1/4" thick slices and place in a large bowl.
- In a small bowl or measuring cup, dissolve the salt in 1 TB of the lemon juice, then add the garlic pressed through a garlic press, the brandy and the oil. Pour over the mushrooms as you toss to coat them.
- Spread the mushrooms in a shallow roasting pan (such as the bottom portion of a porcelain oven broiler pan). They don't have to be in a single layer. Sprinkle with a bit more coarse salt, then cover pan tightly with aluminum foil and roast 30 minutes. Uncover and rearrange mushrooms to evenly cover bottom of pan. Continue to roast, turning and redistributing them until they are burnished looking and tender, another 10 minutes or so.
- Scrape into a small bowl, stir in the remaining 1 TB lemon juice, the zest and finish with some grindings of pepper. Reserve.
- To the roasting pan, add a few tablespoons of boiling water (up to a 1/4 cup) and scrape up the tasty bits, then pour through a small fine mesh strainer into a little cup. Reserve this "mushroom" water.
- Start the white sauce: slowly heat the milk in a saucepan with the onion, mushroom stems, reserved mushroom water, the dried porcini and the bay leaf. Bring just to a boil, then turn off the heat, cover, and allow to steep for 20 minutes. Milk needs to still be warm for the next step.
- Melt butter over medium heat in a 2-3 quart saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook until foaming and beginning to turn blondish. This will take a minute. Remove from the heat. Strain in the warm infused milk, discarding the solids. Return the pan to the heat and whisk constantly until sauce thickens. The finished bechamel should be on the thin side. Add salt to taste. Reserve 1 cup of the sauce in a separate bowl, place in an ice bath to cool it down rapidly then chill in fridg. Fold all the roasted mushrooms into the bechamel in the saucepan. Stir in the 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Cover and keep warm.
For the canneloni:
- 1 cup roasted whole hazelnuts, skin removed as much as possible
- 1 cup basil pesto, your own or store bought
- 1 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, very fresh, strained to remove excess whey if necesarry
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 2 egg whites
- 4 scallions, white and light green parts, finely diced
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- Several dashes of Tabasco
- 1/2 cup fresh grated pecorino romano
- 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan
- 12 6"x4" sheets freshly made pasta, your own or store bought, or 12 6" square egg roll wrappers, trimmed to 6" x4" rectangles
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- olive oil spray
- Put whole hazelnuts into a quart ziplock bag. Using the flat end of meat tenderizer, gently pound the nuts to break them up, and "chop" them. Mess contained! You'll end up with pieces of varying sizes.
- In a small bowl, thoroughly combine the pesto with 1/2 cup of the ricotta. Refrigerate.
- For the chicken filling: puree chicken and egg whites in a food processor until smooth, a minute or two. Add scallions, cilantro, white pepper, Tabasco and salt and process just to evenly distribute.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the remaining 1 cup of ricotta and 1/2 cup of the chilled reserved bechamel until well combined. Add the chicken mixture and gently fold to thoroughly combine. Spoon into a large ziplock bag and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the canneloni.
- Have ready a bowl of ice water by the cooktop. Briefly cook the pasta sheets in rapidly boiling salted water, 3 at a time, for about 30 seconds, then remove to the ice bath. Carefully remove to a towel and blot off excess water. Spritz with a little olive oil spray, then place on a shallow tray. Continue with the remaining pasta, laying plastic wrap between the layers to prevent sticking. If using egg roll wrappers, be attentive to the fact that they have more gluten and try to stick together. Just put two at a time into the water.
- Preheat oven to 350. Remove chicken filling, pesto mixture and cheeses from fridg. Select a shallow baking dish large enough to accommodate the canneloni in a single layer (or use two dishes). Lightly spray the baking dish with olive oil, then smear the remaining 1/2 cup plain bechamel over the bottom. Cut one tip of the bag containing the chicken filling off to create a piping bag.
- Working with two sheets of pasta at a time, lay them on a cutting board side by side. Spoon roughly a tablespoon of the pesto mixture all over each sheet. Pipe about a 1" thick line of chicken filling in the center of the pasta sheets. Roll the rectangles up loosely starting from the long side and place seam side down into the baking dish. Do all the rest of the pasta in this fashion. Leave a little space between the rolls for expansion.
- Spoon the mushroom sauce evenly over the filled canneloni. Combine the two cheeses and sprinkle them over the mushroom sauce. Scatter the chopped hazelnuts over all, from the very fine stuff to the large pieces. You might not need all of it. This is a preference thing.
- Bake 15 minutes or until top looks very lightly brown. Do not over bake. I like to use an instant read thermometer inserted into the middle to test for accuracy. Let rest at least 5 minutes before serving to firm up.