Parsley and Basil Cannelloni

Cannelloni all'Erbe di Prezzemolo e Basilico

Mary Ann Esposito

SERVES 10

FOR THE FILLING

2 pounds ricotta cheese, well drained
1 small zucchini, grated to make 1 cup
1 small carrot, grated to make ½ cup
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (2 large lemons)
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

FOR THE PASTA

1 recipe Handmade Pasta dough
1 large egg white, slightly beaten
Several sprigs fresh Italian parsley, damp-wiped and stemmed
Several sprigs fresh small basil leaves, damp-wiped and stemmed
4 quarts water
1 tablespoon salt

FOR THE SAUCE

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Combine all the filling ingredients in a large bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

DIRECTIONS

Divide the pasta dough into quarters; work with one quarter at a time and keep the rest covered under a bowl on a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for a few minutes on a lightly floured work surface. Flatten the dough with a rolling pin, then thin it in a hand-crank pasta machine to the thinnest setting. Trim the thinned dough to 30 inches long and cut it in half. Save any scraps for re-rolling.

Lightly brush one half of the sheet with the beaten egg white. Arrange a few leaves of parsley and basil along the length of the sheet, pressing them lightly into the dough. This will help the herbs to adhere and not fall out of the dough when put through the pasta machine. Top with the second sheet of dough. Thin the sheet again between the rollers to 25 inches. Cut five 5-inch squares from the dough and arrange them on a kitchen-towel-lined cookie sheet.

Continue with the rest of the dough. As the strips are cut, layer them over more kitchen towels; do not put them directly on top of the first layer or they will stick together.

Fill a baking dish with cold water and add a few ice cubes. Set aside.

Bring the 4 quarts water to a boil in a pasta pot without the insert. Add the salt, then cook half a dozen strips at a time, about 1 minute; they will quickly rise to the surface. Use a pasta scoop to lift the strips from the pot and transfer them to the dish with the ice water. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, transfer the strips to clean kitchen towels and, with another towel, blot them dry.

Lightly butter two 13 1/2 X 9-inch baking dishes. Set aside.

Spread about 1/4 cup of the filling along the length of each strip; roll them up into cylinders and place them seam side down in the baking dish.

At this point the cannelloni can be wrapped and refrigerated and cooked the following day or they can be sealed in aluminum foil and frozen for up to 3 months. Frozen cannelloni do not need to be defrosted, but the baking time will be increased by 10 to 12 minutes.

To bake immediately, melt the butter and pour it evenly over the tops of the cannelloni. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top. Cover the baking dishes with aluminum foil and bake the cannelloni for about 15 minutes. Remove the dishes from the oven and turn on the broiler. Remove the aluminum foil and broil the cannelloni just until the cheese begins to brown. Remove and serve immediately, allowing two cannelloni per person as a first course. Pass additional cheese for sprinkling on top.

Tip: Use the small holes on a four-sided cheese grater to grate the vegetables or the grating disk in a food processor.

Tip: Be sure the stems are completely detached from the parsley and basil or they will cause the dough to rip when it is thinned.

Note: Nonfat ricotta cheese also works well, but increase the amount of salt by ½ teaspoon.

item recipe is featured in Episode 0 of Season 0.

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