Cannelloni (meaning big canes) or Manicotti, as they are called in the US, can be made in many different ways. The classic way would be to make fresh pasta, cut it in 4 inch squares, and boil it in a procedure similar to the one indicated for the lasagna. Then roll the pasta to make stuffed pasta cylinders. Crespelle (crepes) can also be used, wrapped around the filling, instead of pasta sheets.
In most supermarkets and Italian deli shops, you will also find hard manicotti shells, most of them ridged. They need to be boiled, and it can be a tricky job to avoid breaking them. I like the new types of no-boil hard shells. They are thin, practical, fast, and they cook easily and evenly.
for the balsamella white sauce:
(makes approx 6 cups sauce):
4 1/2 oz (125 g) butter
5 1/2 oz (150 g) flour
5 1/3 cup (1250 cc) milk
2 1/2 oz (75 g) parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated
Pinch of nutmeg
for the filling:
3 – 4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 lb (1 kg) ground beef, or mix of different ground meats (beef, pork, cold cuts)
salt and pepper
3 oz (90 g) parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated
pinch of nutmeg
for the cannelloni:
20 dry no-boil cannelloni (manicotti)
3 oz (90 g) parmigiano reggiano cheese, freshly grated
Prepare the Balsamella white sauce
using procedure indicated on the basic recipe, but the quantities indicated in here.
preparing the filling
Put the butter and olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. When the butter starts foaming, add the ground meat, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring and breaking the meat in small particles, until browned.
Place the meat in a food processor and run the blade until the meat is very fine.
Add 3 - 4 tablespoons of white sauce, nutmeg, and the parmigiano cheese. Continue running the blade until a soft compound is obtained.
Transfer it to a bowl.
Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C). Butter one flat oven pan approximately 11 x 14 inch (27 x 35 cm). Spread approximately 1/2 cup of white sauce on the bottom of the pan.
Stuff the dry cannelloni with the meat filling .
and place them in the pans side by side.
Top the cannelloni evenly with the rest of the white sauce . .
.and the parmigiano reggiano cheese.
Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a few more minutes until the surface starts coloring, and the cannelloni are soft when tested with a fork.
Remove from the oven and set aside. Serve after approximately 5 minutes.