Sunday, November 4, 2012

I'm Rolling.... Shrimp Cannelloni...

This weekend is all about cannelloni... with a twist, actually many twists... the first one is a shrimp cannelloni. Begin with a homemade marinara sauce,  add a white wine and tomato sauce for the shrimp, and a tasty ricotta cheese/spinach mix to complete the shrimp filling.  Put it all together for an amazing cannelloni dinner.

Shrimp Cannelloni ready for the oven.
This recipe will serve 6 to 8.

For the marinara sauce:
olive oil
3     medium onions, finely chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
3     garlic cloves, finely chopped
2     medium carrots, finely chopped (about 1 cup "ish")
2     28 oz cans, tomatoes (whole and coarsely chopped or diced) with juices
1     tbsp tomato paste
1     tbsp basil
1     tbsp oregano
1     tsp crushed dried red pepper flakes
1     bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

For the shrimp filling:
olive oil
1     small onion, finely chopped
1     lb of shrimp, peeled and deveined, coarsely chopped (should equal 3/4 lb)
1     1/2 cups ricotta cheese (or substitute some cottage cheese)
3/4  cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (freeze the rind for great soups!)
pinch  each of oregano, basil, red pepper flakes
3     tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1     lb fresh spinach, cooked to measure approx. 1 cup, coarsely chopped
3     tbsp white wine
1/2  tbsp tomato paste
1     egg, beaten
1     cup mozzarella cheese, grated

1     package of egg pasta sheets, thawed (they were precooked and measured approx. 8" x 6"), available at your neighbourhood Italian deli.  About 11-12 sheets.

For the sauce:
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and saute until they are soft; add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds; add the carrots and saute for approx. 3 minutes.  Finally, add the tomatoes, the basil, oregano, red pepper flakes and the bay leaf.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer until the sauce has thickened a little; stir in the tomato paste and continue to simmer approx. 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and adjust your seasonings. Remove from heat and set aside while you prepare the filling.

Cook onions, garlic and carrots until softened.

For the filling:
Heat the olive oil in a skillet, over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, a pinch of basil, oregano and red pepper and cook until the onions are soft.  Add the white wine and tomato paste and stir well to mix.  Cook until half the wine has evaporated, about 2 minutes.  Add the shrimp and cook until just opaque, about 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool quickly by spreading onto a baking sheet or large plate.

Clockwise, from the top:  cheese mixture, shrimp mixture and marinara sauce.

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, the parsley, chopped cooked spinach*, the shrimp mixture and the beaten egg.

Preheat the over to 350 degrees.
Butter a 13 x 9 baking dish.  Spread about 1 cup of tomato sauce over the bottom of the dish.  Place one pasta sheet on a flat surface, spoon approx. 2 tbsp of the shrimp/cheese mixture onto the bottom third of the sheet and roll.  Place the cannelloni, seam side down, in the tomato sauce.  Continue until all the sheets are filled and in the baking dish.  Pour the remaining sauce to cover the cannelloni, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and top with 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese.  Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes.  Uncover and continue baking until golden brown and bubbling, approx. 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let sit approx. 10 minutes before serving.

Cannelloni ready for more sauce
and cheese toppings

* to cook the spinach: clean the spinach under running water and place in a saucepan with a little water in the bottom.  Cover and cook until the spinach is lightly wilted.  Remove from heat.  When cool enough to handle, squeeze out the excess moisture and chop coarsely.

Wanna play?
To add richness to your marinara sauce, you can add red wine and cook it down until the sauce thickens. You can also brown 3-4 ounces of chopped pancetta when you make the marinara sauce or when you make the shrimp/tomato sauce.

Instead of pasta sheets, you can purchase cannelloni shells and stuff them using a pasty bag (challenging with shrimp filling) or a small spoon (and working from both ends).

If you want to freeze the cannelloni in smaller portions, you can cut the pasta sheets to fit 7" x 8" aluminum dishes.  Ladle marinara sauce on the bottom, place four cannellonies in the dish, top with more marinara sauce, then cheese, cover and freeze.  To serve, thaw in the refrigerator 24 hours, place in the preheated oven and cook as described above.

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