Cannelloni (Crespelle)

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(click on pics to enlarge)

My second favorite Italian chef is Mary Ann Espositto. Like my first favorite Biba Caggiano, Mary Ann is very serious about her work. This recipe is influenced by Mary Ann.  Most of this recipe came from a book she wrote in 1991. I tweaked it but not by much. There is something about the “Old School” Italian cooks. My great Grandma was from a town near Naples, Italy and cooked big like this pretty much every night.  These people are serious about food and so am I.  Cooking is relaxing to me.

Typically, these dishes are made with pasta shells but I made this one using a crespelle (crêpe). It is pronounced [krehs-PEHL-leh]. This dish doesn’t look like much b/c it is covered in a besciamella sauce (Béchamel sauce), but I assure you, it is one of the most tasty dishes you will ever eat. And, it has a great cheese aroma.

The Crespelle

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1 ½ cups flour
1 ½ cup milk
1 TBSP melted butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 extra egg yolk, beaten
Salt
1 tsp. nutmeg
4 TBSP grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago cheese

Mix all in a bowl. Pour ¼ cup in a 6 or 8 inch non-stick pan and cook for a minute or two on medium high heat. Flip, cook for 30 seconds and slide on a plate.

Besciamella Sauce

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4 TBSP butter
4 TBSP flour
1 ½ cup heated milk
½ cup onions chopped
1 cup shredded white Italian cheeses, your choice (I use the 5 Italian cheeses from the store.)

In a 2 quart pot melt butter and add the flour. Cook like a white roux for several minutes before it starts to turn brown. Add milk, ½ cup at a time until the sauce gets thick. Add onions, stir, add cheeses, melt, then remove from heat. It should be a thick silky sauce.

Meat Stuffing

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1 Lb. ground meat (or veal)
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 garlic, chopped
1 egg, beaten
Salt and pepper
4 TBSP dry red wine (Chianti preferred)
1 TBSP olive oil
1 cup fresh spinach, steamed (or frozen)
½ cup Besciamella Sauce
3 TBSP grated Fontina cheese

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I browned the meat in olive oil in a hot wok b/c I wanted to get the meat cooked and browned and the moisture burned off quickly. I added rosemary and garlic. I moved the meat into a large bowl. I added 1 egg beaten and a cup of besciamella. I wanted the spinach like a pesto so I steamed it a long time, but you might want it more whole so you might want to just add frozen spinach. Ladle in the besciamella to bind the meat and combine.

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Spoon the filling onto the Crespelle. Roll and place in a cooking pan.

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When done filling the Cannelloni, ladle the Besciamella Sauce over the top and then grate Fontina on top of the sauce. When done, you will have almost 7 different cheeses in this dish.

Preheat oven 350⁰, cover the pan with aluminum foil and cook 35 to 40 minutes. Serve.

Can it be that good?

Someone say yes.

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