Recipe from The Glorious Pasta of Italy by Domenica Marchetti (Chronicle Books, 2011)Both of my children profess to despise radicchio, that bitter, scarlet (or in some cases pale green flecked with scarlet) member of the chicory family that most of us toss into salad. Cooked radicchio-grilled, sautéed, or braised-is a completely different story. Its signature bitterness melts away into a sweet nuttiness and its texture turns velvety. This is my version of a classic recipe from the Veneto, where many kinds of radicchio-scarlet, green, round, long, curled, ruffled-grow in abundance. I'm happy to tell you that when I made these cannelloni, which are rolled around a filling of sautéed radicchio mixed with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses and baked in a traditional béchamel sauce, my kids devoured them. There was only one point of contention: my husband thought the cannelloni could have done without the chopped walnut garnish. He is entitled to his opinion, and that's all I'll say about that.
Makes 20 cannelloni; 10 first-course servings or 5 to 6 main-course servings
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 shallots, halved and thinly sliced
- 2 heads radicchio, quartered through the stem end, cored, and finely shredded
- Kosher or fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 11/2 cups/340 g whole cow's milk ricotta cheese, drained in a colander lined with damp cheesecloth for at least an hour and up to overnight in the refrigerator depending on how moist it is
- 8 oz/225 g fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small dice
1 batch Fresh Egg Pasta Dough (see recipe here), cut into lasagne noodles: Stretch the dough as thin as you comfortably can, no thicker than 1/16 in/2 mm. If you lift a sheet with your hand, you should be able to see the shadow of your hand through it. Because lasagne noodles are layered, they need to be very thin. Using a sharp chef's or similar knife, cut each sheet into rectangles about 4 by 5 in/10 by 12 cm
Warm the olive oil in a large, deep frying pan placed over medium heat. Add the shallots and stir to coat them with the oil. Sauté, stirring from time to time, for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the shallots are soft and translucent but not browned. Add the radicchio and sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and a generous grind of pepper. Cover the pan, raise the heat to medium-high, and cook the radicchio for about 8 minutes, or until wilted. Uncover the pan and use tongs to toss the radicchio. Cook for another minute or two, or until the radicchio is purple-brown, wilted, and just tender. Remove from the heat and let the radicchio cool to room temperature in the pan. Remove a handful of the radicchio and set it aside to garnish the cannelloni.
- 1 batch Béchamel Sauce (See Recipe Below), heated to a simmer
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 11/2 cups/170 g freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1/4 cup/30 g coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
In a large bowl, work the ricotta with a fork until it is creamy. Fold in the mozzarella. Add the radicchio in the frying pan to the cheese mixture and fold to distribute evenly.
Spread a clean tablecloth or several clean dish/tea towels on a clean, flat surface near the stove. Have ready the uncooked pasta, the béchamel, and the radicchio-cheese filling. Place a large bowl filled with ice water near the stove for briefly immersing the cooked lasagne noodles to remove excess starch.
Heat the oven to 375°F/190°C/gas 5. Lightly coat two 8-by-12-in/20-by-30.5-cm baking dishes with the butter.
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously. Carefully drop in 4 or 5 lasagne noodles, taking care not to crowd the pot. Boil the pasta for about 1 minute; fresh pasta cooks quickly and the lasagne noodles should be slightly underdone. Use a large skimmer to remove the lasagne noodles from the pot and gently immerse them in the bowl of ice water. Use the skimmer to remove the noodles; let them drip and then spread them out on the tablecloth. Continue to cook, cool, and spread out the lasagne noodles until you have cooked and cooled all of them.
Spread a thick layer of béchamel sauce (about 3/4 cup/180 ml per dish) in the bottom of each prepared baking dish.
Place a lasagne rectangle on a clean work surface. Spoon about 2 tbsp of the radicchio-cheese filling onto the center, and spread it out with the back of the spoon, leaving a border all around. Roll up the pasta rectangle, cigar style, and place it, seam-side down, in one of the prepared baking dishes. Continue to fill and roll the cannelloni, arranging 10 cannelloni in each dish.
Divide the remaining béchamel between the 2 baking dishes, spreading it over the filled cannelloni. Strew a little of the reserved radicchio over the top in uneven clumps. Sprinkle the Parmigiano cheese and then the walnuts (if using) over the cannelloni. Cover the dishes with aluminum foil.
Bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until the cheese and béchamel sauce are bubbly and the top is golden brown. Serve the cannelloni piping hot from the oven.
Simplify: The radicchio filling may be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Store-bought dried cannelloni or dried lasagne noodles may be substituted for the fresh ones. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for cooking.
If you do not want to make homemade pasta dough and stretch it into sheets, you can substitute store-bought fresh egg pasta sheets, available at gourmet food shops, Italian food stores, and well-stocked supermarkets, and cut them into lasagne noodles.
This is a good all-purpose white sauce. In this book, it is used in several recipes, including Lasagne Verde alla Bolognese and Cannelloni al Radicchio. You can vary it by adding shredded cheese (at which point it becomes a Mornay sauce), by perfuming the milk as it heats with a fresh bay leaf or other herbs, or by stirring pesto into it, as in the recipe for Nonna's Zucchini and Mushroom Agnolotti with Pesto Béchamel.
Makes about 3 cups/720 ml
- 3 cups/720 ml whole or 2-percent milk
- 4 tbsp/55 g unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup/30 g unbleached all-purpose/plain flour
- 1 tsp kosher or fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pour the milk into a saucepan and bring just to a boil over medium heat. Do not let it boil over. Remove the pan from the heat.
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot milk in driblets, whisking constantly and taking care to avoid lumps and scorching. When all of the milk has been added, cook the sauce, stirring it frequently with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, for 10 to 13 minutes, or until it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Season with the salt, pepper to taste, and the nutmeg, and remove from the heat.
Simplify: The sauce may be stored in a tightly lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat it in a saucepan over low heat, adding a splash or two of milk if necessary to loosen it.