Tuesday, 20 November 2007
Michael's birthday this year fell on a Thursday and the previous night we had a conversation that went something like this.
Mike: "Dads, can we go out for dinner tomorrow?"
"Sure! Where would you like to go?"
Mike: "I don't know. I don't know all the names of the places"
"Well, what would you like to eat?"
Mike: "..errr.... Can we have pasta?"
"Tell you what Mike. Instead of going out for Pasta, why don't I make you some pasta instead?"
Mike: "Can you? I like Daddy's pasta better!"
"Sure boy, I'll try and get home a little early and I'll make you dinner. What kind of pasta would you like?"
Mike: "I think I like Daddy's creamy pasta..oh! no, no.. I think the tomatoey pasta is better."
"Why don't I make you a special pasta. Something you've never had before?"
Mike: "Like what Dads?"
"Like a pasta tube filled with meat, spinach and cheese all covered in tomato sauce"
Mike: "Mmmmmm! That sounds yummy" (as he rubbed his tummy)
And so I planned to make my son a Cannelloni dish although I've never made Cannelloni before. The plan was to make the filling out of beef with some spinach thrown in and then some cheese sauce mixed in. I would then bake the whole thing in a tomato based sauce infused with loads of mushrooms.
Since the Lovely Wife had taken the day off from work, I asked her to get me the pasta and the ingredients I would need. Unfortunately, she couldn't find Cannelloni anywhere and so she bought some large shells, otherwise known as Lumaconi. I'd never seen nor used Lumaconi before so a quick Internet search revealed that Lumaconi are also known as Snail Shell pasta. That would make absolute sense since aside from looking very much like snail shells, Lumaca actually means snails.
You'd have gathered by now that I don't have specific recipes for anything and it's all just a smidgen of this and a dash of that but I'll try and reproduce it as accurately as possible! This is quite a large recipe and I managed to get two and a half baking trays worth of Stuffed Lumaconi!
For the meat filling:
500g Minced Beef
1 large onion
5 cloves garlic
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
250 g chopped spinach (I use fresh spinach that is blanched and then chopped)
200 g cheddar cheese
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
300 g milk
For the tomato sauce
3 cloves garlic
400 g button mushrooms
3 bay leaves
4 large tomatoes
1 can stewed tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
Fry the garlic and onions till soft. Add in the ground beef and cook well. Add in the cooked chopped spinach. Mix well. Set aside. Make the cheese sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan. Add in the flour cook till smooth. Add in the milk. Bring mixture to the boil. Sauce will thicken. Add in cheese and season with salt. Add cheese sauce into the beef. Set aside.
Slice mushrooms thinly. Sautee garlic and bay leaves till fragrant. Add in mushrooms and cook till juices come out. Add in fresh tomatoes and cook till soft. Add in stewed tomatoes and tomato paste. Simmer till sauce thickens.
Cook the Lumaconi till al dente. Rinse with cool water and drain. Place meat mixture into a piping bag or other piping device and pipe into the cooked shells.
Place a thin layer of sauce on a baking dish and arrange the shells in the dish. Cover the shells with remaining sauce and bake in a preheated 180C oven for about 30 minutes. I covered the dish with some foil as I felt there wasn't enough sauce to completely cover the Lumaconi and I was afraid the pasta would be crusty.
The Lumaconi turned out fantastic. It was very tasty albeit a little bit rich. The combination of flavours was just right and after eating 5 shells, I was stuffed! My mother joined us for dinner that night and she enjoyed the Stuffed Lumaconi too.
As for the birthday boy, he thoroughly enjoyed this 'new pasta'. He managed to finish 6 shells all by himself! A rather mean feat considering how filling this dish was.
I worry sometimes that I might be spoiling the kids as far as food goes coz I never had any 'gourmet' pasta for my sixth birthday! Then again, there's nothing wrong with being exposed to good food at a young age and developing a 'refined palate'....!
I've also submitted this as an entry to Presto Pasta Nights hosted by my lovely friend Ruth over at Onceuponafeast.blogpsot.com. It's my EIGHTH entry Ruth!!
Note: Incidentally, for all you English and grammar purists out there (I'm normally one of them!) my kids call me Dads (Yes. with an 's') intentionally. Sometimes even Mum or Mummy becomes Mums. Don't ask me why - but it's kinda cute, so I let it be!