One thing I did accomplish this summer is a pantry-purge. It wasn’t pretty, I had to throw out a lot of things. But it inspired me as well, as I found an old pot of dried mushrooms and half a package of cannelloni tubes. Normally I make spinach-ricotta cannelloni with tomato sauce, but the mushrooms just asked for a silky white sauce. This would be a perfect autumn dish.
For this recipe you’ll need cannelloni tubes (three per person should do), ricotta cheese, spinach (I used fresh, but I can tell you that frozen spinach works just as well), a shallot, dried mushrooms (If you have some fresh ones laying around, they could do too, but you’ll need some dried to use the rehydration liquid for the sauce), flour, butter and milk.
- Rehydrate the mushrooms in some very hot water. How many is your choice, it’s the liquid that we’ll need to make a special white sauce, but I used some mushrooms in the filling too. Preheat the oven to 200°C (that’s my standard, I hardly use any other temperature, so if you know your oven, maybe you should play around). Butter a oven proof dish slightly.
- Make the filling: welt the spinach and when it’s done, try to squeeze out as many of the moisture as you can. When using frozen spinach: defrost (maybe you can do that ahead and let it sit overnight in a sieve over a bowl) and squeeze out the moisture. Cooking isn’t needed, it will be in the oven later, time enough to cook!
- Chop the shallot very finely and cook until translucent. When using a few fresh mushrooms, you can chop them very finely too and cook with the shallot. For the dried ones, no cooking required, but you’ll need to chop finely and squeeze out all the liquid. Don’t throw it away, but set aside. That brownish water with the distinctive mushroom fragrance is going to add some extra to your sauce.
- Combine spinach, mushroom, shallot with just enough ricotta cheese to bring it all together and then just a little more. Season to taste.
- Fill the tubes with the mixture. For me, a simple plastic bag works best. Put the filling in it, cut a tiny little bit of the corner and tadaaa, great filling tool!
- Prepare the white sauce. First, make a roux of equal quantities of butter and flour. Cook it long enough to smell something nutty, then add a few spoons of the mushroom water to it (I suggest you start with two and then go on with the milk – it can get quite overwhelming taste wise). Continue with milk, constantly whisking until you have a lovely beige sauce. It can’t be runny, but make sure it’s not too thick either, because your cannelloni will have to cook in it. Taste! Season and add more mushroom water if you like.
- Spoon a layer of sauce into your dish, arrange the cannelloni on top of it, and cover with the rest of the sauce. Put in the oven for at least 30 minutes, maybe 45, until your cannelloni are cooked. To me, it’s a very filling meal, but I would understand the need for something fresh to accompany it. I would go for a simple salad with a light, fresh dressing. Enjoy!