This was an experiment born from watching an episode of masterchef during which some highly talented individuals made a mockery of lasagne. Still it served to awaken my appetite and had me craving a pasta dish of some manner. After finding no lasagne sheets in my pantry, I happened to have dried cannelloni pasta so I turned my attention to using these. I began with no set plan, asked during the chopping stage if I would do a tomato sauce and in that moment decided against it, the pattern continued like this. I found what was available in cupboards and the fridge, tasted and added and thankfully ended up with a really flavourful and punchy dish which had evolved as the recipe developed. It took a little time to compile and put the components together but in the end it was the biggest hit with my family I’ve had in a long while, devoured before it could even cool. Creamy, with a gentle chili warmth and a fragrant aroma added by the thyme. Good simply seasoned veggies, surrounded by rings of pasta and smothered in a velvety white sauce. Divine with crusty white bread designed to be dunked and dragged through the smearing’s of flavours residually left on the plate. Enjoy!!
1 red onion (diced)
3 cloves garlic (diced)
I carrot (small cubes)
2in ring of butternut squash (small cubes)
4 button mushrooms (diced)
¼ red pepper (small cubes)
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme- leaves removed
Chopped mixed nuts
Salt, pepper and chili flakes (spice it up to your preference)
13 cannelloni tubes (enough to fill my baking dish)
Oven at 200˚C
Fry the prepared vegetables in olive oil, beginning with the onion, garlic and then root vegetables (carrot and butternut squash). Cover with a lid to soften as needed. Add the mushrooms, pepper and nuts last. Cook until just tender, and then add seasonings to taste.
Hold the dry cannelloni vertically; place a piece of greaseproof paper at the bottom end to close the opening. Using a small spoon, fill the tubes with the vegetable mixture. Lay these then into an ovenproof dish in tight rows.
To make the white sauce, melt the butter and add the flour. Allow the flour to absorb the butter and then cooks these out for a few minutes. Slowly add the milk in stages to create a thick but easily pourable sauce. Season and stir in the grated parmesan cheese. Pour this over and between the pasta tubes, finish with a little sprinkle of extra cheese.
Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 15-20 minutes until nicely crisp and golden. Serve immediately with a further flourish of grated cheese and accompany with good crusty bread.