Last night we made dinner for friends: cannelloni & salad. I used my new pasta maker to roll out the pasta. My old one was out of alignment and just didn’t roll right. I got this machine for free at freecycle.org. It’s a site where people post things that they don’t want any more but others might. It’s a great way to keep stuff out of landfills. I’m thankful to Rebecca for recognising she no longer makes her own pasta and posting the machine for me to snatch up.
As usual, before just about any meal, we wandered the garden to collect ingredients. The cannelloni needed spinach (or equivalent) and the salad needed greens. Here’s my spinach and silverbeet (with a few onion greens) harvest. Bronwyn was NOT helping.
The salad harvest was even more traumatic as the hens all rushed into the lettuce bed as soon as Frank lifted the cover. I had to call them into their run where we locked them up before cutting the broken leaves of the lettuce and rocket. Not that we have grounds for much grumbling, the harvest was plentiful (in fact 4 of us only managed to eat half of the harvest) and the plants live on to produce more leaves. We can eat salad every day from our 2 leafy-green beds.
Then came time to start cooking. The pasta dough recipe is easy.
- Mix & knead: 3 eggs (these were courtesy of our chickens so it’s hard to begrudge them the occasional stolen leafy green) and 300 grams of flour
- Create a stiff dough (add a bit of water if it’s too dry or extra flour if it’s too wet) so that you can roll and cut the pasta without it sticking.
- Cover the dough with a towel and let it rest for a few minutes.
- Roll the dough into rectangular sheets either by hand (quite labour intensive but totally doable) or with a machine, folding and re-rolling several times (at least 5) .
The filling is made by mixing together:
- 500 grams ricotta cheese (actually we only had 375 g of ricotta so added some tasty to bulk it up)
- 100 -250 g (depending on taste) chopped spinach/silverbeet (frozen is okay if you don’t have fresh, just squeeze out all the fluid you can)
- dash of salt
- Place the cheese & spinach filling on one end of flat sheets of pasta dough.
- Roll the pasta around the filling.
- Make your favourite tomato sauce (we used garlic, onions, mushrooms, fresh herbs, salt & pepper, tinned tomatoes and tomato paste – a jar of spaghetti sauce would work as well) and pour a shallow coating of it into the bottom of a baking dish.
- Put the stuffed (rolled) pasta into the baking tray and add the rest of the tomato sauce.
- Cover with a basic white (or bechamel) sauce which you can make by browning a bit of flour in some butter in a pan. When it’s cooked (but not burnt) add milk slowly, stirring constantly, until you have a thickish sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Ratios totally depend on the quantity of sauce you want.
- Cover pan with foil and bake at 170 C (340 F) for 35 minutes.
- Remove foil and top with grated parmesan cheese.
- Bake 10 more minutes.
To be honest, the whole thing took about 2 1/2 hours so it’s not something you could whip up when an appetite strikes. Nothing difficult, just quite a few steps. But both the cannelloni and salad (rocket, lettuce, walnuts, pear, mandarin, dried apricots, haloumi cheese and a vinaigrette dressing) were yummy and worth the effort.
Once you’ve made pasta a couple of times you realise it’s not all that hard. And fresh pasta cooks more quickly than dried pasta so for spaghetti and the like, it doesn’t take that much longer. At least not with a pasta machine. I made pasta a few times before I got a machine and personally found it just that little bit too difficult so I gave up and bought bags of the cheap stuff.
After stuffing (rolling) the cannelloni, I had some dough left over so we’ll have a Pasta Carbonaro or similar with the remains. I love leftovers.