Do you like radicchio? I happen to love this scarlet member of the chicory family but I know that many of you are not enamored with its bitter taste. This recipe will win you over to the joy of cooked radicchio-the bitterness has disappeared and its flavor is actually quite subtle and a little sweet. I saw this recipe a while ago in one of my favorite books-Domenica Marchetti’s The Glorious Pasta of Italy-and have been looking for an opportunity to serve it.
This is a great do-ahead dish as you can make the filling, the bechamel and the crespelle (if using rather than lasagna noodles) up to three days earlier. I opted to make crespelle since I was a little pressed for time on the day of the dinner. Served with a green salad and crusty bread this was the perfect supper for an evening with friends. To be honest, if I hadn’t said it was radicchio I’m not sure anyone would have identified what was in the filling!
Cannelloni al Radicchio
Makes: 10 first-course servings or 5 to 6 main-course serving
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, halved, thinly sliced
2 heads radicchio, quartered, cored, finely shredded
Kosher or fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 cups whole cow’s milk ricotta cheese, drained in colander lined with damp cheesecloth for at least an hour in the refrigerator depending moistness
8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small dice
1 batch Béchamel Sauce, heated to simmer (see below)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
Lasagna Noodles or crespelle (crepes)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk (heated until almost boiling)
freshly grated nutmeg
In a medium saucepan, heat the butter until melted. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Continue cooking (and whisking) over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add the warm milk about a cup at a time, whisking constantly until very smooth. Bring just to a boil and remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg. If you’re not using immediately, cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Yield about 2 cups.
Heat olive oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium heat. Add shallots and stir. Sauté, stirring for 7 to 8 minutes, or until shallots are soft and translucent (not browned). Add radicchio. Sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and pepper. Cover pan, raise heat to medium-high, and cook radicchio for 8 minutes, or until wilted. Uncover pan and toss the radicchio. Cook for another minute or two, or until radicchio is purple-brown, wilted, and tender. Remove from heat and let cool to room temp. in the pan. Remove a handful and set it aside to garnish the cannelloni.
In a large bowl, work the ricotta with a fork until it is creamy. Fold in mozzarella. Add radicchio in the frying pan to the cheese mixture and fold to distribute evenly.
Heat oven to 375°F. Lightly coat two 8-by-12-in. baking dishes with butter.
Bring large pot of water to boil and salt. Drop in 4 or 5 lasagne noodles; Do not crowd pot. Boil pasta for 1 minute if you’ve made your pasta-if not follow directions for dried pasta. Use large skimmer to remove lasagne noodles and gently immerse them in bowl of ice water. Use the skimmer to remove noodles; let drip, then spread out on the tablecloth. Repeat until all noodles cooked and cooled.
Spread thick layer of béchamel sauce (about 3/4 cup per dish) in bottom of each prepared baking dish.
Place a lasagne rectangle on a clean work surface. Spoon 2 tbsp of the radicchio-cheese filling onto center, and spread it out with spoon, leaving a border all around. Roll up pasta rectangle, 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 2 baking dishes, spreading it over the filled cannelloni. Strew a little of the reserved radicchio over top. Sprinkle the Parmigiano cheese and walnuts over the cannelloni. Cover dishes with foil.
Bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for 20 more minutes, or until cheese and béchamel sauce bubble and top is golden brown. Serve cannelloni hot from the oven.
Simplify: 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 fresh ones. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cooking. Can substitute store-bought fresh egg pasta sheets, and cut them into lasagne noodles.
***Photo was taken before the dish went into the oven-sorry I didn’t get a chance to take one of the finished product.