This past weekend just screamed comfort food. Not sure what it was; it could have been possible burnout from work, or the idea that I simply wanted to do something special for my wife, but it was a comforting weekend.
As I often do, I take a look around my pantry, and refrigerator, looking for simple things to put together. I had my mind on pasta, and at first, I thought of making some lasagna. After some conversations in Facebook regarding what friends were making, something popped out with one of the Italian girls. They were making a sauce with bacon. For some reason, I could not get sauce with bacon out of my mind on Sunday. I first thought of the standard carbonara, but then after scanning my ingredients decided to come up with something new. Something wonderful. Something ever so tasty and comforting. Stuffed cannelloni with chicken, bacon, and ricotta.
If you do not know what cannelloni is, it is often referred to as manicotti in the states. A big hollow shell that you fill, ladle sauce over, and bake. What could be better than that!
- 1/2 cup of baby portabella mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed, and chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 6 slices of cooked bacon, chopped, reserve bacon grease
- 1 boneless, skinless, chicken breast, finely diced
- 2 tbsp marsala wine
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 8 oz cannelloni/manicotti shells, boiled for 8 minutes
- 15 oz, part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
- 5 basil leaves, chopped
Bechamel Sauce Ingredients:
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 tbsp all purpose flour
- 2 cups of hot milk
- pinch of nutmeg
- pinch of salt
- pinch of pepper
- 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
Begin by making your bechamel sauce. Bring a small pot of milk to medium heat, not a boil. During this time, melt the butter on medium to low heat, stir in the flour, and continue to stir for a couple of minutes. Slowly add in the milk, and whisk continuously for an additional 2-3 minutes. You will notice the sauce will become smooth, and thicken. Add in the parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Give one final stir, and set aside.
To another large skillet, use the reserved bacon fat and cook down the mushrooms, onions, and garlic. Toss in the diced chicken, marsala wine, and fennel seeds, cooking until the chicken is cooked through. This should not take very long. Remove the cooked mixture to a bowl and set aside to let cool.
Now, cook your noodles according to the package. Once cooked, drain the noodles, and rinse with cold water to prevent further cooking.
To your cooled chicken mixture, add the ricotta cheese, chopped bacon, mozzarella, and the chopped basil leaves. Mix well.
To your casserole dish, spray with cooking spray, or lightly butter the bottom and edges. With a small spoon, knife, or piping bag, stuff your shells with the chicken mixture, making sure you fill from one end to the other. Repeat with the remaining shells, placing them in the greased casserole dish.
Mix the bechamel sauce, and pour over the top of the noodles. Place the dish in a preheated, 350 degree oven for roughly 35 minutes, or until the sauce is lightly browned, and bubbly.
Sprinkle with some more grated parmesan cheese, and plate and serve.
Trust me when I say comfort. This was a real winner and the chicken and bacon combination was very nice. Thanks to my Facebook friends for chiming in on keywords sauce and bacon. Enjoy.