Traditionally, not many authentic Italian pasta dishes use chicken as an ingredient in them. But there are certain pasta recipes that are now popularly served with chicken and they taste equally awesome like beef and pork pasta dishes. And among those recipes, chicken filled cannelloni tubes have become very popular. The succulent nature and the juiciness of the dish comes from the amazing béchamel sauce and cheese coating; while, the meat filling adds a heavenly flavor to this dish.
Difficulty level: Easy
Servings per recipe: 4-6
Time required for preparation: 30-40 minutes
Time required for baking: 40-45 minutes
2 baking pans
1 wire whisk
1 stirring spoon
1 large bowl
1 lb. of uncooked cannelloni tubes
1 ½ lbs. of chicken sausage
1 large onion, finely diced
4 cups of fresh spinach, soaked in water and squeezed
4-5 cups of béchamel sauce
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 cup of freshly grated parmiggiano reggiano cheese
1 large clove of garlic, minced
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons of olive oil
For the Béchamel Sauce
5 cups of whole milk, at room temperature
1/3rd cup of unsalted butter
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Salt, to taste
1/3rd cup of all-purpose flour
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Method of Preparation
1. Place a saucepan on the hob and pour the milk in it. Light up the flame by turning the knob and then set it on medium. Simmer the milk on medium heat for 2 minutes. While the milk is simmering, take another saucepan and place it over the adjacent hob. Set the flame on low and put 1/3rd cup of butter in it. Spin the butter in the saucepan with the tip of your stirring spoon to speed up its melting process. Once the butter melts completely, add-in 1/3rd cup of all-purpose flour and stir to mix it immediately with the melted butter.
2. Stir and cook the roux for 1-2 minutes or until it becomes smooth and lump-free. Once done, slowly pour the simmering milk into the saucepan of roux. Whisk the mixture constantly while adding the milk to the roux as this prevents lump formation. Whisk the mixture for a few minutes or until the roux gets completely incorporated into the milk.
Continue cooking the sauce by stirring it continuously until it thickens up. Once the sauce thickens up, grate a pinch of nutmeg and add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to it. Stir to combine the spice and the seasonings with the sauce and then let the sauce cook for 1 minute more.
3. Once done, turn off the flame and transfer the sauce to a large bowl. Let the sauce sit at room temperature for a few minutes or until it completely cools down. Once the béchamel sauce cools down completely, pop the bowl into the refrigerator and let it sit there until you are ready to use it. Now take a skillet and place it on the hob.
Light up the flame and set it on medium high. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and let the oil heat up. Once the oil heats up and starts forming ripples, throw-in the chopped garlic and sauté them for 1-2 minutes or until they turn soft and fragrant.
4. While the garlic is sautéing, remove the casings from the chicken sausages and then keep them aside on a plate. Next add the chopped onion and the chopped bell pepper to the garlic and sauté them for another 3-4 minutes. Once the vegetables are sautéed, put the chicken sausages into the skillet and break them with the tip of the stirring spoon. Continue cooking the sausages until they are completely browned. Once done, turn off the heat and put the browned chicken sausages into a bowl. Let the meat cool down a little bit and in the meantime you can prepare the other things.
5. Now take a pot and fill it halfway up with water. Place the pot on high flame and wait for it to come to a boil. While the water is coming to a boil, take a bowl and put the spinach leaves in it.
Pour some hot water over the spinach leaves and then let them sit in the hot water for 5-10 seconds. Once the time elapses, spoon out the soaked spinach leaves and then squeeze them to extract excess water from them. Once the water in the pot starts boiling, add a pinch of salt to it and then tip-in the cannelloni tubes. Cook the cannelloni tubes for about 5-7 minutes or until they turn al-dente.
6. While the cannelloni tubes are boiling, take the browned chicken sausages and add 1-2 cups of béchamel sauce and the soaked spinach to it. Follow that by adding 3/4th cup of the grated parmiggiano reggiano cheese and a little salt and black pepper. Stir to combine all the added things with the browned chicken sausage mixture but make sure that you don’t break the sausage too much. Once done, let the chicken filling sit for some time. If you are ready with the pasta by now, tip them slowly into a colander to drain off the water from the pot and then rinse them under cold water to stop the cooking.
7. Be careful while tipping the cannelloni tubes into the colander because they may break if you handle them harshly. Once done, lay some paper towels on a tray and place the cannelloni tubes on that to soak the excess water from them. While the cannelloni tubes are cooling down, take two baking pans and grease them thoroughly with some softened butter. Once done, pour some bechamel sauce into both the baking pans and spread that around to coat the base of both the baking pans.
8. Then take one of the cannelloni tubes and stuff it carefully with the meat mixture. Once done, place it in one of the baking pans and then continue stuffing the rest of the cannelloni tubes. Once all the cannelloni tubes are stuffed, ladle out 2-3 cups of béchamel sauce over them and spread that evenly over the cannelloni tubes.
Finally, sprinkle some grated parmiggiano reggiano cheese over the cannelloni tubes and then pop the baking pans into a 375 degrees Fahrenheit preheated oven to bake the cannelloni tubes for 40-45 minutes or until the cheese at the top turns bubbly. Once done, take out the baking pans from the oven and let the pasta cool down a bit before serving.