Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mannecoti con la Balsamella

For the Christmas party at Steve's office this year, they decided on an Italian theme, and Steve had volunteered us for a main dish and a dessert. With that in mind, I decided to do Manicotti and Pannacotta. They turned out wonderfully, and we will definitely be doing them again! Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures of them and they are completely gone, so I will have to take pictures of them the next time we make them! I originally got both of these recipes from this site, and was really pleased with all of the very authentic Italian recipes that abounded there. It is well worth the time to check it out!

Balsamella white sauce (makes approx 6 cups sauce):
4 1/2 oz butter
5 1/2 oz flour
5 1/3 cup milk
2 1/2 oz parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated
Pinch of nutmeg

This is just a white sauce, so melt your butter, stir in your flour and then gradually add the milk as it thickens, stirring contantly. Add salt to taste (it will need it, we used between 1/2 and 1 tsp) as well as the parmigiano and the nutmeg once it has thickened up.

3 - 4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 lb ground beef, or mix of different ground meats (beef, pork, cold cuts)
salt and pepper
3 oz parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated
pinch of nutmeg

In a frying pan put the butter and olive oil, on medium heat. When the butter starts foaming add the ground meat, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring and breaking the meat in small particles, until browned. Place the meat in a food processor and run the blade until the meat is very fine. Add 3 - 4 tablespoons of white sauce, nutmeg, and the parmigiano cheese. Continue running the blade until a soft compound is obtained. Transfer to either a pastry bag or a ziploc, with a corner cut out, to make for easy filling of the pasta.

20 dry manicotti, or no-boil cannelloni
3 oz parmigiano reggiano cheese, freshly grated

The original recipe refers to no-boil cannelloni, but that wasn't available in my grocery story so I went with regular manicotti. The instructions on the box say to boil them for 6-8 minutes, but we found that to be much too long; 5 minutes is more than enough, and allows them to maintain enough of their shape to make filling them easy.

So now you need a pan for your manicotti. The instructions say to use an 11x14, but I don't have anything that size. I managed with a 9x13, using some creative placement, but you may have a couple of differently sized pans that will work better than one large. In any case, you need to butter your pan and then put 1/4 to 1/2 a cupe of white sauce in the bottom of the pan; enough so that it is covered. Then, holding pasta in one hand and bag of meat in the other, begin filling your little tubes of pasta goodness. Be careful to avoid over-filling the pasta, as that will make it tear. If necessary, fill half-way from one side and then flip to finish filling from the other side. Place the pasta in the pan and, when full, cover with sauce. Finish with a sprinkle of the parmigiano cheese, cover with foil, and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve hot, and I would definitely balance the heaviness of this dish with some veggies or salad to accompany it.

Notes: I don't have a food processor, and the thought of grinding the meat up in small increments in my blender was a bit daunting. I do have a meat grinder attachment for my Bosch, though. So I actually browned my meat, put it through the meat grinder, and added my butter and olive oil afterwards so that I didn't lose any of those oils inside the Bosch (and not have them in my filling for later). I used the smallest sized attachment that I had for the meat grinder and four blades instead of two.


brokeintrovert said...

Instead of the dry shells, try crepes. There is an easy recipe on It is the recipe that has like three ingredients: 2 cups milk, 1 cup flour and 1 egg. With your filling and sauce...these will be delicious. The traditional manicotti crepes have a very high number of eggs in them...I needed to cut down on the number of eggs for my husband and myself.

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rain said...