Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Spinach and Cheese Cannelloni (Page 228)


  • Date: Sunday, August 31, 2008 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companion: Paul K, Beth, Lauren K, Mike M, and Teresa
  • Recipe Rating: B-

I made this stuffed pasta as a vegetarian entree for a dinner party a couple weekends ago. I figured homemade stuffed pasta was bound to be good, but in fact this was a bit disappointing. Additionally it was pretty time consuming, so I had a fairly bad attitude about the final product. Matty and I started by making the homemade pasta rectangles (see post below) that got stuffed to form this dish. While the pasta dough was resting, I made the sauce. It was a typical mornay-style sauce. It started with a roux of butter and flour. I added milk and boiled until it thickened. The sauce was then seasoned with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and finished by melting in some finely grated pecorino Romano. After the sauce was finished I made the filling. I browned garlic and onion, then added spinach and cooked it briefly. This spinach mixture was cooled and then added to a mixture of ricotta, egg, parsley, salt, pepper, and pecorino Romano. At some point Matty and I rolled out the pasta dough, and once the filling was done we boiled the noodles briefly, then dried them off, filled them with filling, rolled them, and snuggly packed them into a baking dish with a bit of sauce in it. I then spread sauce over the top, sprinkled with cheese and baked until bubbly. To finish it, the dish went under the broiler just until the cheese was browned. Sounds good, no? Yeah, I thought it would be. The pasta was good, and so was the sauce, but the filling left much to be desired. It had two problems (that could have easily been fixed). One, it was too watery. When you cook spinach it always becomes quite watery, so typically a recipe like this would have a step where you squeeze the spinach dry before adding it to the filling. This recipe did not call for that. I was skeptical, and for good reason. That extra moisture destroyed the texture of the filling. The other issue was that the spinach wasn't chopped, and although it was baby spinach, the pieces were still too big for a pasta filling. The filling had big stringy pieces of spinach, which just didn't go well with the cheese at all. This dish could have been hugely improved by squeezing the spinach and then chopping it. That would have added an additional 5 minutes to a recipe that has a Start to Finish time of 4 hours, and an Active Time of 2 hours. It would have been a 5 minutes well spent. As it is though, I won't be making this one again, and I am a little bitter than I spent the time I did to make something that was only ok.

Here is the recipe.

Math departments, generally, are not so full of intrigue. This week, however, has been an exception. Apparently on Saturday, around 1pm, one of the professors in my department walked into his office to find a complete stranger sitting at his desk, with a laptop plugged into the office computer. The professor confronted him, but was unable to gather any real information. The mystery man fled the scene, leaving behind three blueberry muffins. We received department-wide email on Monday morning titled, "Do you know the muffin man?" No one was quite able to figure out what he had been doing with his laptop, and he had also taken some papers with him off the professor's desk. The Muffin Man did leave behind something with his name on it though, so his identity was revealed -- a former undergraduate. In the meantime, of all odd things, the Muffin Man returned to the office he had broken into to reclaim his muffins. The professor came in one morning, and they were gone! Presumably he was looking for the item he left behind with his name on it, but he picked up his muffins while he was there. This even more mysterious behavior led to a full-fledged search for the Muffin Man. Another faculty member had the key to breaking the case -- early one morning he had seen someone sleeping in a small room (I think containing audio-visual equipment) off a big classroom in the department. The room is usually locked so the professor had assumed this guy was someone with authority to be there. But after the muffin incident, he reported it. Several department members confirmed this Muffin Man hangout and he was apprehended this afternoon. Mysteriously, in his possession was a key to the office he had broken into. How he got it is completely unclear. In any event, case closed!


David B said...

Yes, but what was the muffin man doing in the department and how long had he been around?

More importantly for this blog what exactly were his muffins, blueberry...

Ah the joy of academia



Paul said...

I hate to criticize a dish that Teena labored over and served me, that exceeds anything I could ever make, on a day when I was so exhausted from a long run that nothing appealed more than pasta and cheese, but I'm going to concur with the grade/criticism this time (in order to maintain some kind of standing on this Blog): It was too watery. It was OK as a "scarf it down" kind of thing, but not what I imagine when I dream about Gourmet magazine

Teena said...

David: Yeah, it's pretty unclear. No one is sure what he was doing, and it seems he has been around for a while, but no one is really sure of that either!

Paul: Yeah, I hear you. I was hungry too, and it was fine, but the wateriness was a downer.