Pumpkin Cannelloni with Béchamel

On a trip to the grocery store just before Halloween with her daddy my two-year-old spotted the little pie pumpkins and insisted that they bring one home. At first we thought we might do a mini carved pumpkin, but since she wouldn’t actually be able to help we decided to just use it as is for decoration. We all enjoyed it for a while, but as with most things with toddlers it eventually lost it’s allure, so I decided that I would cook something with it. I love pumpkin, but it’s not an ingredient that I use regularly. Since it was “Grace’s pumpkin” I wanted to make something that I thought she would enjoy. Her favorite food is pasta, so I decided to make pumpkin filled cannelloni.

I decided to go all out and make the pasta as well. I don’t have a pasta machine, but cannelloni is relatively easy to make without one since you just have to roll out large sheets and cut them into rectangles.

This was a hit with Grace and my husband and I loved it as well. I’m always excited to find something new that we all like. It makes meal time so much easier.

Not up to making the pasta? I can’t say that I blame you. It really wasn’t that difficult to make, but when I was typing up the recipe I realized how many steps there were and just how complex it became. This recipe isn’t exactly a weeknight option unless you prep over the weekend, so that all you have to do is bake to heat it through. The good news is that you can easily cheat this recipe with store bought cannelloni or large shell pasta and a jar of your favorite alfredo sauce in lieu of the béchamel. Just make sure to get basic alfredo sauce if you go that route. The four cheese or other “flavors” out there will fight with the pumpkin.

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Pumpkin Cannelloni

Ingredients

Dough

2 C 00 pasta flour
1/2 T Salt
2 Eggs
2 T Extra-virgin olive oil
1 T Water

Filling

2 lbs Pumpkin
1 t Salt
2 T Unsalted butter
8 Sage leaves
1/2 Medium onion, diced
1/4 C Parmesan cheese, grated
3/4 C Ricotta cheese
4 Slices bacon

Béchamel Sauce

2 C Whole milk
2 T Unsalted butter
2 T All purpose flour
1/8 t Nutmeg
Salt & Pepper to taste

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Preparation

  1. Prepare the pumpkin:
    1. Preheat the oven to 375º. Cut the pumpkin in half lengthwise, scoop out the inner stringy flesh and seeds, and discard. Rub the butter and half of the salt around the inner cavity. Stuff the inside of each half with a few of the sage leaves and slices of onion. Place the halves cut side down in a baking dish lined with parchment paper. Pour ½ cup of water around the halves and cover tightly with foil. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes, until the pumpkin flesh is completely tender. Remove from the oven and cool.
    2. Cut the bacon into 1/2″ pieces and brown in a saute pan. All pieces should be crunchy.
    3. When the squash is cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh from the skin into a medium mixing bowl, and discard the skin. Finely chop the onion and sage and add to the squash. Add the remaining salt, bacon, ricotta and half of the parmesan cheese and mix well. Keep the filling chilled until ready to use.
  2. Make the pasta dough:
    1. While the pumpkin is cooking, combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Make a well in the dry ingredients, add the eggs and slowly work the dough with the mixer. Add the olive oil and water and slowly knead the dough with the paddle. Once the dry ingredients are fully incorporated, continue to knead the dough with the paddle for 1 to 2 minutes.
    2. Remove dough from mixer, cover with plastic wrap and let rest 20 minutes at room temperature.
  3. Make the béchamel:
    1. Warm the milk until bubbles just start to appear around the edges of the pot
    2. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and cook 2-3 minutes, but do not let it brown.
    3. Add the warm milk and stir until smooth and sauce begins to thicken. About 8 minutes.
    4. Remove sauce from the heat and add the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste
  4. Assemble the cannelloni:
    1. On a floured work surface, roll out dough as thinly as possible. You want to spread it out enough that you can cut out about eight 5”x5” sheets.
    2. Fill a large stockpot with water, season generously with salt and bring to a rolling boil over high heat.  With a large slotted spoon or mesh strainer, gently lower the pasta sheets into the boiling water, blanching the sheets for about 45 seconds. brush the sheets with olive oil as you remove them from the water, so they don’t stick together.
    3. Preheat the oven to 350º.
    4. Pour half of the béchamel into the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish (I used two 8×8 baking dishes so that I could freeze one for later).
    5. After the pasta is cooked spoon the filling evenly along one side of the pasta sheet. Roll the pasta into the classic cannelloni shape and place edges down in baking dish. Continue with all of the pasta.
    6. Pour the remaining béchamel over the rolled cannelloni. If the sauce has thickened, use pasta water to thin it out a little. You want to be able to pour it.
    7. Top the sauce with shredded parmesan cheese and bake about 5-8 minutes until the cheese and sauce begins to brown.