Every once in a while, I do a pantry and fridge overhaul… you know the kind… where you clear out everything from the back of your fridge.
I always find very random ingredients that I buy to try, and never really use. This time around I found a box of cannelloni shells that I was never really inspired to make… but it was about time.
To find out how to make heart shaped pasta (the easy way)… scroll down further
Cheaters Bolognese Sauce (I took a few short cuts, and deviated from what would be known as a ‘traditional’ sauce)
- 2 Roma Tomatoes, diced (thats all I had
- 1/4 cup oil (vegetable or olive, your choice)
- 1/3 cup of vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp tomato paste (I sometimes substitute ketchup, it adds a little bit of sweetness)
- 1 Large White Onion, diced
- 1 Red Pepper, de-veined and diced
- 500 g lean ground beef
- 2 fresh basil leaves
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley
- 1 tsp oregano
- 3 cloves of garlic, whole
- salt and pepper to taste
- chili flakes to taste (optional)
- 1 package of quick bake cannelloni shells (also known as manicotti shells)
* My deep dish only fits 12 shells, you may need more or less depending on the size of your dish
Spinach and Cream Cheese Filling
- 1 – 250 g package of cream cheese
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded (1/2 cup goes into the filling, 1/2 cup used to sprinkle on top before baking)
- 2 tbsp parmesan (if you don’t have it, its okay to omit it)
- 1/4 cup fresh spinach, finely chopped
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp dry Italian bread crumbs
- dash of salt and pepper
Heart Shaped Pasta
- 5-10 Cannelloni Shells
- Heart shaped cookie cutters – or pretty much any shape cookie cutter
- In a deep skillet or pot, heat oil over medium heat.
- Add onions and peppers, you’ll want to cook this for about 2-3 minutes, until the onions turn transparent. Add tomatoes, and cook for an addition 2-3 minutes.
- Add chicken stock, tomato paste, basil, parsley, oregano, garlic, and salt and pepper. Increase your heat to medium high, or until your sauce begins to bubble. Reduce heat to a medium-low and cover. Allow the ingredients to cook at temperature for 20 – 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- I used this handy little attachment that came with my blender. You can use any grinder, food processor, or blender. The purpose is to grind the ingredients so they create a smoother, more palatable sauce.
- Allow your sauce to cool almost completely before using the grinder. From a past kitchen mishap, I learned my lesson that the sauce goes flying out of the machine…. it wasn’t pretty.
- I only ran my sauce through the grinder once, if you prefer a ‘smoother’ sauce, feel free to run it through again. Return your sauce to a pot, and allow to simmer until ready to use– this brings out more flavor.
- The ground beef is completely optional. You can even substitute ground pork or turkey, its up to you.
- I browned my beef before I added it to the sauce. I added a tsp of oil and used the same deep skillet as I made the sauce. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Once the beef browned, I drained any excess fat, and added it to my tomato sauce base. I returned the sauce to a simmer.
For the filling:
- Pre-heat your oven to 375′C before you start making the filling for your cannelloni.
- You can also make the filling the night before, and store it in the fridge to use later on. This saves time and doesn’t make the process seem as lengthy
- Whip the cream cheese on a medium-high setting until light and fluffy. Add the remaining ingredients for the filling as listed above, and blend for 2-3 minutes, or until combined. *Note, only use 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella, the rest is to top your dish.
- I cooked the shells for about 3 minutes in salted-boiling water. I did this to soften the shells in order to reduce the cooking time in the oven. I removed them from the water, allowed them to drain and proceeded to pipe the filling into them.
- I used a plastic zip-lock bag, with the end trimmed off to stuff my cannelloni shells– this works wonders.
- I sprayed some cooking oil on the bottom of my cooking dish. I then added a thin layer of my home-made pasta sauce. I neatly organized my cannelloni shells to fit the pan, but make sure you don’t cram them together.
- On top, I added more sauce… than sprinkled it with the left over mozzarella cheese.
- Cover with foil, and bake for 20-25 minutes (if you blanched your shells prior), or according to the heat setting on your cannelloni shell box.
- Remove the foil in the last 5 minutes of cooking, and allow the cheese to turn a golden brown.
- Allow the cannelloni to cool for 5 minutes before serving– as you might notice, the cheese bubbles at the top… an indicator that its WAY to hot to serve:)
Heart Shaped Pasta: The Cheater’s Version
- Bring water and a tbsp of salt to a boil in a large pot. Add cannelloni shells, and allow to boil until they start to flatten out, as below. Remove from heat, and allow to cool slightly before the next step.
- Using a pairing knife, cut along the length of the cannelloni shell, so you have one large square.
- Using a cookie cutter, cut out your desired shape. THATS all there is to it… it’s cheating, but hey, it works for me. (At least until I learn how to make my own pasta from scratch)
- Serve over sauce.. any way you want to… this is YOUR dish.
Happy Valentine’s Day– even if your single