Its warm in the Lone Star State. We’re still waiting in Texas for some cool Autumn weather. We are still in the 80’s around here if you know what I mean. The only indication of Fall, besides the calendar, are the beautiful pumpkins, squashes, sweet potatoes, root vegetables and leafy greens at the markets.
This last Sunday, I found small butternut squash, acorn squash, and some white mini pumpkins. While some people are turning them into candle holders, I think they are the perfect individual size for dinner. They cook fast and leave no left-overs.
With this in mind, and the romantic idea of having a Fall season, I turned my oven on and thought about the most autumn dish I could bake, and this is what I came up with: Butternut Squash Cannelloni with a Walnut-Sage Bechamel sauce. Dreamy. This recipe has a long name and a short preparation. It is not hard to Imagine pasta sheets filled with delicate butternut squash, baby spinach, onions and goat cheese; rolled and smothered with a light creamy, nutty walnut-sage béchamel sauce, some mozzarella on top and.. Kazam! You have Fall on a plate. Nutty, creamy, warm, cheesy, the kind of dinner you want to snuggle with…In Texas we snuggle in shorts and t-shirts. Or you can fake it and watch a movie with maple trees, and turn your A/C to 64F grab a little blanket and for a few hours pretend is Fall….Not that we have done this…ehem, ehem.
Mean time we will patiently wait in shorts and T-shirts for the winter… maybe I should make Margaritas instead!… Enjoy the recipe.
Butternut squash Cannelloni with Walnut-Sage Bechamel Sauce.
12 cannelloni pasta tubes or 12 lasagna sheets.
For the filling:
1 small butternut squash peeled and cut into small cubes
2 cups baby spinach or baby kale
1/2 medium onion small diced.
1 glug extra virgin olive oil
2 pinches of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
4 oz. Chèvre Goat cheese
For the sauce:
1/2 cup blanched and toasted walnuts
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons butter
Zest 1/2 lemon
1-2 pinches nutmeg (freshly grated preferred )
2-3 Sage leaves whole*
1/2 teaspoon salt
4-6 cranks of fresh ground black pepper
Fresh mozzarella ( liberal amounts upon your preference)
3-4 Sage leaves to garnish
*Note: Sage its a powerful herb, I levee it whole to just perfume the sauce and leave it whole as garnish also enhances the dish and brings out delicious aromas. I prefer not to chop the sage on dishes like this, because it becomes a bit bitter, and is not very pleasant to bite into them, they will overwhelm the delicate flavor of the butternut squash. However, If you love sage and its a flavor you enjoy, feel free to adjust to your taste.
1. Using a little glug of olive oil Sauté the onions and butternut squash until tender. Finally add spinach salt, pepper and nutmeg; toss well then remove from stove and let it cool down. Add the goat cheese in crumbles once the filling is cool, toss gently.
2. Pre-cook your pasta sheets according the directions on your package. Remember to salt your water to flavor the pasta. Remove the sheets from boiling water 3-4 minutes before, according to directions. Shock them in iced water to stop cooking, and avoid to stick together.
3. Make the sauce. Start by blanching the walnuts in warm water for 5 minutes, this will eliminate any bitterness from the walnut skins. Drain the walnuts and toast them on a large skillet for a few minutes. Blend the walnuts with 1/2 cup of the milk until smooth. Then incorporate with the rest of the milk.
4. In the same large skillet, over medium heat, place the butter until melted and bubbly. Add the flour and whisk well to combine until no lumps and the buttered flour looks light golden-yellow in color. Start adding the walnut-milk in smaller additions and whisk at all times to avoid lumps, until the 2 cups of milk are incorporated. You might need to reduce the heat to medium low while whisking. After all the milk is incorporated season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg and sage leaves. Bring too a slow simmer and remove from heat. The consistency should be of a light creamy thickness, if to thick, add more milk, to lose, place it back to the heat and whisk until desired consistency.
It should cover the back of a spoon see picture below.
3. Prepare a baking dish with butter, or a little olive oil, add a bit of the sauce on the bottom.
4. Start by filling the cannelloni’s pasta tubes or by placing the filling on one end of the precooked pasta sheets and roll them up tightly. Proceed to do the same with each pasta sheet. Place the cannelloni rolls into your baking dish as you go.
5. Cover all the pasta rolls with the walnut-sage sauce, reserve some of the sauce.
6. Cover with mozzarella slices, then pour the remainder of the sauce, top with some sage leaves.
7. Bake at 375F for 20-30 minutes until cheese is melted and top is blistered.
8. Let it rest for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
Note: Not too fond of rolling? make it into lasagna layers, you also can add some cooked ground turkey or sausage to the butternut -spinash filling and it will be equally delicious. I just love the way the Cannellonis portions out. Enjoy!