Spinach and ricotta for the vegetarians; chicken, leek & mushroom for the meat eaters.
This was our main course for the dinner party. It was a brilliant choice because it could be prepared in advance and then popped in the oven to cook for half an hour before serving. It was also easy to make a veggie dish that didn't make our vegetarian guest feel like they were missing out on anything. We served this with a big mixed salad and a heap of wine. The winning component in this dish is the sauce. It's incredibly rich and decadent - definitely not something you'd eat very often - so it really felt like a treat and a special meal. I found myself scraping leftover sauce out of the dish the next morning in a hungover state, wishing there was more.
1 big bag spinach
1 tub ricotta cheese
3 chicken breasts
1 leek, cleaned and finely chopped
Two handfuls of mushrooms, finely chopped
1 tub cottage cheese
For the sauce:
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 bottle white wine
1.5 pints single cream
1 pint milk
About 1 tablespoon of Herbes de provence (dried)
- Prepare the veggie cannelloni first. In a food processor, whizz up all the spinach until it's very finely chopped. Chuck it in a bowl with the ricotta and add a couple of handfuls of breadcrums. Mix well, and stuff this mixture into the cannelloni. This takes a bit of time, so sit down at the kitchen table with a cup of tea and prepare to get your hands very messy. Place the filled cannelloni in a single layer in a baking dish and set aside.
- Now prepare the chicken version. Cook the chicken breasts on a pan in olive oil until they are done all the way through; this takes 10 or 15 mins. Once cooked, chuck the chicken into the food processor and blend until the chicken is in nice small pieces. Place this into a big bowl.
- Melt some butter in a pan and saute the mushroom and leek for 5 mins, just until the vegetables have softened. Add this into the chicken, throw in the cottage cheese and mix thoroughly.
- Stuff this mixture into cannelloni, and again place it on a single layer in a dish.
- Time to make the sauce, the sauce of which dreams are made. Heat some butter in a large saucepan and add the onions, carrots, celery and bay leaves. Saute for 10 minutes or so, until the vegetables are soft. Add in the whole bottle of white wine and simmer with the lid on for another 10 minutes, to get all the flavours of the vegetables into the wine.
- After 10 minutes, strain the wine through a sieve or colander to remove the vegetables and bay leaves - these can now be discarded as they have given all their flavour.
- Add the cream and milk to the wine and mix gently. Add approx 1 tablespoon of herbes de provence and a good dose of salt and pepper.
- The next step is to thicken the sauce. To do this, take a tablespoon of white flour and a tablespoon of butter. Put them in a bowl and mash them together with a fork to make a roux. Add this into the sauce and stir well; the sauce will begin to thicken as it simmers. Add more roux until the sauce is the thickness you want; ideally you want it thick enough that it will properly coat the pasta and not just drip off the sides.
- Pour the sauce over the cannelloni dishes so that all the pasta is covered.
- Cook in a moderate oven (160 or 170 degrees) for approximately 30 minutes, until the pasta is cooked and the top of the dish is beginning to brown. Serve immediately, to delighted friends.