What’s a Seasonal Cook to do? Cannelloni al Radicchio with Walnuts

What’s with the wacky weather? Hot one day, cold the next. I live in Southern California so I have come to expect these crazy fluctuations this time of year, but honestly what is a seasonal cook like me supposed to do? How about Cannelloni al Radicchio? The perfect dish for 100-degree weather and wild Santa Anna winds right?

You see I’ve got cannelloni on the brain because it seems like just yesterday that I awoke to a chilly morning leading to a rainy afternoon. So I curled up with a new cookbook. I chose The Glorious Pasta of Italy by Dominica Marchetti to warm my soul that morning. You see it’s been sitting on top of my book pile all summer waiting for my attention. Chronicle Books sent it to me so I knew it was bound to be a winner.

Cannelloni al Radicchio

Have you ever opened a book to the exact page you wanted (without even knowing what you wanted)? Well, that’s what happened that cool morning last week. Cannelloni al Radicchio swept me in and would not let me out of its warm embrace. So I went out into the cold, cold rain and picked me up some radicchio. But by the time I got home, this and that and some more of the other thing happened. Meaning, there just wasn’t time to make egg pasta, homemade béchamel, and all the other lovely ingredients that make this recipe such a seasonal winner.

Pasta by Domenica MarchettiThen with the blink of an eye, the 100-degree weather rolled back in and I suddenly had some free time on my hands. I could have made that melon salad I have been thinking about– very warm weather friendly. But I just thought “screw cantaloupe” I am making cannelloni today. Santa Anna be damned…

Cannelloni al Radicchio

  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, halved & thinly sliced
  • 2 heads radicchio, quartered through the stem end, cored & finely shredded
  • 1 T kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1 pinch black pepper, plus more as needed
  • 1 1/2 c whole cows milk ricotta, drained
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small dice
  • 1 oz batch fresh egg pasta, cut into lasagna noodles
  • 3 c bechamel sauce, slightly heated
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 c Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
  • 1/4 c walnuts, coarsely chopped

Serves 5 or 6 as a main course or 10 as a first course by Domenica Marchetti CLICK here for a printable recipe

Cannelloni in Staub cast iron casseroleWarm the olive oil in a large, deep frying pan placed over medium heat. Add the shallots and stir to coat them with the oil. Sauté, stirring from time to time, for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the shallots are soft and translucent but not browned. Add the radicchio and sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and a generous grind of pepper. Cover the pan, raise the heat to medium-high, and cook the radicchio for about 8 minutes, or until wilted. Uncover the pan and use tongs to toss the radicchio. Cook for another minute or two, or until the radicchio is purple-brown, wilted, and just tender. Remove from the heat and let the radicchio cool to room temperature in the pan. Remove a handful of the radicchio and set it aside to garnish the cannelloni.

In a large bowl, work the ricotta with a fork until it is creamy. Fold in the mozzarella. Add the radicchio in the frying pan to the cheese mixture and fold to distribute evenly.

Spread a clean tablecloth or several clean dish/tea towels on a clean, flat surface near the stove. Have ready the uncooked pasta, the béchamel, and the radicchio-cheese filling. Place a large bowl filled with ice water near the stove for briefly immersing the cooked lasagne noodles to remove excess starch.

Heat the oven to 375°F/190°C/gas 5. Lightly coat two 8‑by-12-in/20-by-30.5‑cm baking dishes with the butter.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously. Carefully drop in 4 or 5 lasagna noodles, taking care not to crowd the pot. Boil the pasta for about 1 minute; fresh pasta cooks quickly and the lasagna noodles should be slightly underdone. Use a large skimmer to remove the lasagna noodles from the pot and gently immerse them in the bowl of ice water. Use the skimmer to remove the noodles; let them drip and then spread them out on the tablecloth. Continue to cook, cool, and spread out the lasagna noodles until you have cooked and cooled all of them.

Spread a thick layer of béchamel sauce (about 3/4 cup/180 ml per dish) in the bottom of each prepared baking dish.

Place a lasagna rectangle on a clean work surface. Spoon about 2 tbsp of the radicchio-cheese filling onto the center, and spread it out with the back of the spoon, leaving a border all around. Roll up the pasta rectangle, cigar style, 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 the 2 baking dishes, spreading it over the filled cannelloni. Strew a little of the reserved radicchio over the top in uneven clumps. Sprinkle the Parmigiano cheese and then the walnuts (if using) over the cannelloni. Cover the dishes with aluminum foil.

Bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until the cheese and béchamel sauce are bubbly and the top is golden brown. Serve the cannelloni piping hot from the oven.

Simplify: The radicchio filling may be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Store-bought dried cannelloni or dried lasagna noodles may be substituted for the fresh ones. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cooking.

If you do not want to make homemade pasta dough and stretch it into sheets, you can substitute store-bought fresh egg pasta sheets, available at gourmet food shops, Italian food stores, and well-stocked supermarkets, and cut them into lasagna noodles.

Béchamel Sauce: This is a good all-purpose white sauce. In this book, it is used in several recipes, including Lasagne Verde alla Bolognese and Cannelloni al Radicchio. You can vary it by adding shredded cheese (at which point it becomes a Mornay sauce), by perfuming the milk as it heats with a fresh bay leaf or other herbs, or by stirring pesto into it, as in the recipe for Nonna’s Zucchini and Mushroom Agnolotti with Pesto Béchamel.

Makes about 3 cups/720 ml

  • 3 cups/720 ml whole or 2‑percent milk
  • 4 tbsp/55 g unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup/30 g unbleached all-purpose/plain flour
  • 1 tsp kosher or fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Pour the milk into a saucepan and bring just to a boil over medium heat. Do not let it boil over. Remove the pan from the heat. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.

Add the hot milk in driblets, whisking constantly, and taking care to avoid lumps and scorching. When all of the milk has been added, cook the sauce, stirring it frequently with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, for 10 to 13 minutes, or until it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Season with the salt, pepper to taste, and the nutmeg, and remove from the heat.

Simplify: The sauce may be stored in a tightly lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat it in a saucepan over low heat, adding a splash or two of milk if necessary to loosen it.