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Meatless Meal: Asparagus Cannelloni

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Ingredients:

1.5 lbs. asparagus (750 g)

1/3 cup butter or margarine (75 ml)

1/3 cup flour (75 ml)

4 cups milk

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (250 ml)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan (125 ml)

2 T. Italian seasoning (25 ml)

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup ricotta or cottage cheese (250 ml)

1 egg

1/2 cup Parmesan (125 ml)

2 T. bread crumbs (25 ml)

2 T. minced onion (25 ml)

1/4 tsp. nutmeg (1 ml)

16 oven ready cannelloni tubes

 

Instructions: Steam the asparagus for about 2-3 minutes until just barely tender.  Cool the asparagus under some cold water so that you can handle it and dry off with a towel.  Chop finely – you may want to reserve some of the tips to use as garnish.  Set aside while you work on the sauce.  In a large pan, melt the butter over low to medium heat.  Stir in the flour to make a roux and continue to cook for a minute while stirring constantly.  Whisk in the milk and increase the heat to medium-high.  Bring this to a boil and continue stirring constantly as it thickens.  Lower the heat to a simmer and stir in the mozzarella, 1/4 cup of the parmesan (50 ml), and the Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper continuing to stir until the cheese has melted.  Pour a cup of sauce (250 ml) into a greased 9 by 13 pan.  Set aside the rest of the sauce for now while you prepare the filling.  For the filling, mix together the ricotta/cottage cheese, egg, 1/2 cup parmesan (125 ml), bread crumbs, onion, nutmeg, and the chopped asparagus.  Fill the cannelloni tubes with this filling (don’t pack it in too tightly…you want to fill them somewhat loosely so there is room for expansion in the oven).  Place the filled tubes over the sauce in the baking pan.  Pour the rest of the sauce on top of the tubes.  Since they are oven-ready, you have to ensure that the tubes are completely covered so that they will cook properly.  Sprinkle on the remaining parmesan over the top of the whole casserole, cover with foil (or a lid) and bake at 350 degrees F (180 C) for 30-35 minutes until it’s bubbly and the tubes are cooked and tender.

Notes:  You can use something like an Alfredo sauce in place of the sauce above to save time and effort – I just add additional Italian seasoning to it and I like to throw some shredded mozzarella over the whole casserole prior to baking if I do this.  Another tip is that you can use the filling recipe and stuff the cannelloni tubes and then use this as the pasta in the Neapolitan Layered Pasta Bake recipe:  https://islandtearoom.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/neapolitan-layered-pasta-bake/

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