Wish Upon A Dish: Lite Turkey Cannelloni

February 20, 2013

Lite Turkey Cannelloni

A few weeks ago I attempted to make a pan of chicken cannelloni. There was a good reason it never made it into this blog. I have to give The Nudge credit for trying to be polite. He said they tasted fine, I thought they were dry and tough, not what I had come to expect from a cannelloni.

While manicotti most often contains a cheese filling, cannelloni uses meat. Manicotti uses a crepe (or crespelle) to wrap the filling in, cannelloni uses pasta. Do not think of cannelloni as a tube enclosing a single sausage-like lump of stuffing. Whenever I see those dried pasta "tubes" filled with a meat filling I want to scream at the TV.
We have abused and misused traditional dishes that our immigrant ancestors brought to this country long enough. It's time to start teaching the younger cooks in this country what their great grandmothers ate when they were young. The excuse that the ingredients can not be bought here worked for them so they adapted, but it just doesn't fly anymore. Nowadays you would be able to find just about everything from there, here.

So, in order to eat what I say, I am referring this dish to the all-time Icon, Italian food and recipe expert,  Marcella Hazan.

This is what she says:  
Before rolling up the pasta the stuffing mixture should be spread over it in a filmy, adherent layer not much thicker than the pasta itself. Then the dough is rolled up jelly-roll fashion with the filling evenly distributed throughout.

Now I know what I did wrong. I also made the bechamel too thick, it should be the consistency of sour cream (or Greek yogurt). Once that was solved I decided to make it healthier. Did you know that her recipe had over 1300 calories a serving. There was no way I could in good conscious, serve this as was. By using a few substitutions we can cut the fat and calories down to a livable amount.

The other thing she does is to lay each pasta sheet right in a pool of bechamel, coating the entire bottom of each, then spreading a thin layer of filling just a mere tablespoon.

I have to admit, before my disaster, many years ago, I did make a recipe that Mario Batali posted on the Food Network site and it was a huge success. While slightly different from this version, it did use both a cream and red sauce and I forgot about that. I even thought about shredding fontina on top but that really breaks all the rules.

I am sorry Marcella to mess with a masterpiece but I think even you would approve of my update (her recipe used 10 tablespoons of butter). Since we are a nation with an 'eyes bigger than stomach' mentality (and I am also guilty) and we wonder where we went wrong with rampant obesity, it's time to look at the Europeans. They eat what they want, with no dietary problems, their food is simple and easy to prepare. If we just follow their lead we can start to reverse the medical problems that, while too late for some of us, don't have to be for our children.

Lightened-Up Cannelloni
makes 4 servings of 2 each

Bechamel Sauce
* 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
* 1 tablespoon ICBINB
* 1 (12oz) can fat-free evaporated milk
* Pinch of whole nutmeg, grated
* Salt

* 1 1/4 cups low-fat ricotta
* 3 tablespoons grated cheese
* 3/4 cup cooked ground white turkey meat
* 2 tablespoons egg beaters
* Grated nutmeg
* salt & pepper
* 1 1/2 tablespoons minced onion, microwaved for 3 minutes

* 6oz cooked ground turkey
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 tablespoon onion, finely chopped
* salt
* 1 cup canned plum tomatoes, pureed

* 8 no-boil Barilla lasagna sheets, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes

1. Prepare the bechamel sauce by melting the butter sub and whisking in the flour. Cook for one minute and add the milk, nutmeg and salt to taste. Soon as it thickens remove to a bowl and place a plastic wrap over the top to prevent a skin from forming. Clean out the pot to make the tomato sauce.
2.  Heat the olive oil and saute the onions until soft and translucent. Add the meat and saute until browned. Add the tomato puree and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the sauce to a 8x10" baking pan.
3. In a small mixing bowl, place all the ingredients for the filling and mix. Drain the pasta on a kitchen towel.
4. Place 1 tablespoon of bechamel on a plate large enough to hold one sheet of pasta (I used a small baking pan). Place the pasta on the sauce, turning to make sure it is totally coated on the bottom.
5. Spoon 2 generous tablespoons of filling onto the pasta, spreading evenly to 1/4" of each edge.
6. Using a spatula, roll the pasta up jelly-roll fashion. Remove to a baking pan that has been spread with the tomato sauce. Continue to fill and roll the pasta, placing each roll side by side in the prepared baking pan.
7. Spoon the remaining bechamel sauce over the rolled cannelloni. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes in a 400° oven. Remove the foil, top with extra tomato sauce if any, sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of grated cheese and bake, uncovered for 10 minutes.
Remove and let rest for 15 minutes.

Review: Wow, this was really good. They were light but had huge flavor and although I cut the cheese by a quarter, you do not miss it. These have now become a part of our favorites and will appear more often than once a century.

Now for the nutritionals..........

I have to say that even though I cut the calories, fat and sodium down to a livable healthy amount, these still tasted terrific, decadent, meaty and seriously creamy. I have already planned to make these again.

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