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1 portion! We might have had more later...

The paper is still not written. My partner says I do this every time I have a paper to present -entailing going a bit crazy at the end and then driving him insane. It’s so true…

I have however been able to spend time on more important things such as this blog! And my first ever cannelloni! It’s not that I haven’t cooked much baked pasta before; indeed, one of my favourite dishes is lasagne. Talking of which, if you haven’t ever tried it you should really make Yotam Ottolenghi’s Mushroom Lasagne. Although be prepared for the kilo of cheese and butter he puts in the dish… Healthy it isn’t. Tasty it is.

Anyway back to the cannelloni. I’ve always wanted to make it as when I was a child it was my Mum’s dish that she cooked for special celebrations. Although if I also remember she soon found it a bit of a faff and so probably only cooked it twice! To be honest I didn’t find it that stressful but I did have help in the kitchen. Having browsed the web it seems that most people go for the lasagne sheet methods when trying this, which is certainly something I’d like to try in future. However we had a packet of tubes and with a meat ragu it was easy enough to fill them before baking – although we did use the smallest measuring spoon we had available.

For the cannelloni you need a white sauce and my go to sauce here is Delia’s Bechamel, which infuses your milk with a number of flavours before you make the roux. It just gives it some extra depth. For the cannelloni itself I adapted a recipe from Good Food. Basically I halved it so that it was for 4-6 servings rather than 10-12. But I also added a few more ingredients for flavour as sometimes Good Food recipes can be a little on the bland side.

Recipe adapted from Good Food’s Beef Cannelloni with Delia’s Bechamel Sauce (with one added ingredient!)

Delia’s Bechamel Sauce, which is substantially the same as hers, but with one added ingredient:

425ml of semi-skimmed milk

5-6 flat-leaf parsley stalks (I freeze leftover parsley stalks and use them in recipes)

1 dried bay leaf

a pinch of dried mace

10 black peppercorns

½ small onion

40g or 1½ oz of unsalted butter

20g or ¾ oz of plain flour (the cheapest is fine – for something like this I use Tesco’s Value Plain Flour)

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

75g of Le Roule (a garlic and herb soft cheese – I’m sure any other type of soft cheese would be fine also)

So basically you pour the milk into the pan, and place the next five ingredients in the pan also. Heat up the milk until it reaches simmering point, turn the heat off and leave it to infuse for five or ten minutes. Then strain the milk into a jug and discard the ingredients.

When ready to make the roux you melt the butter in the saucepan. Once melted turn off the heat and add the flour. Mix it up with a wooden spoon – don’t worry it won’t resemble anything nice at the moment. Now bit by bit add the milk. Basically to begin with you want to keep doing this with little amounts of milk. But then you can add more milk and change your wooden spoon for a whisk. When there is more milk than the flour/butter mixture return the pan to the heat and keep whisking and adding milk.

Leave it to heat a bit and keep whisking occasionally – you want to make sure that the flour/butter mixture is incorporated properly into the milk. When its becomes thicker taste it for seasoning and add salt and pepper. I always find that with baked pasta dishes more seasoning is needed for flavour than ordinary pasta dishes so I wouldn’t skimp on this – but equally don’t go over the top – particularly if you’re adding parmesan to the finished product. Eek the salt police are so going to be after me…!

Once the sauce is glossy and thick add the Le Roule cheese. This isn’t necessary but it does taste good.

 Easy Beef Cannelloni:

 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil

500g/1lb 1oz of beef mince

1-2 small onions (finely sliced)

4-5 garlic cloves (finely sliced)

1 jar of passata (680g)

1 dessertspoon of Worcester sauce

1 stock cube (optional – I added one – I don’t always, but I was cooking this for a mid-week dish and so was not cooking down the sauce as much as I normally would)

1 teaspoon of dried marjoram

a pinch of dried thyme

a pinch of chilli powder

a pinch of golden caster sugar

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

250g dried cannelloni tubes

75g of Extra-Mature Cheddar Cheese (or Parmesan)

This is quick cooking ragu, so you brown the mince first (no oil). Then take out the mince, and add the olive oil, and when hot add the onion. Fry for 5-7 minutes and then add the garlic for an extra minute. Then return the mince to the pan, add the passata and all the other ingredients up to the cannelloni tubes. Bring to a boil and then reduce and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

After simmering check for seasoning and add more if needed. You then need to leave the mixture to cool for a little before you place the ragu into the cannelloni tubes.

To assemble the cannelloni, get a deep-sided oven proof dish and add a few tablespoons ofragu to the bottom. Then fill the cannelloni with the ragu mixture. This should take between 10-15 minutes (see pic 1 below). I had about a dessertspoon of ragu left which I just added on top. Then get your bechamel sauce that you’ve made earlier and add to the cannelloni, making sure to spread out the sauce so that it covers all of the cannelloni. Finally add some cheese! You then bake the cannelloni for about 35-45 minutes depending on your oven at 200C. I would check after 25 minutes to see how its doing (see pic 2 for the finished product). A good easy cannelloni that is reasonably quick compared to some other recipes. We served it with a simple salad of spinach and cherry tomatoes. Yum.

After the tubes have been filled. We had one crackage but it didn't make any difference to the final product.

The finished product - and to be fair it took us at least two days to devour it...