June 26, 2011

Cannelloni with Chard

cannelloni with chard

The original title of this post was “manicotti with chard.” I never really knew the difference between manicotti and cannelloni but assumed they were simply two regional or dialectical names for the same thing.  I chose “manicotti” for this dish because I’ve always liked the way it feels to say it.  The combination of the open ‘o’ [ɔ] and the double ‘t’ [t.t] in the “-otto” suffix (plural -otti) is onomatopoetically tied to the meaning of the suffix – a meaning appropriate for this dish.  

If I may go off on a brief linguistic tangent, one of the many things I love about the Italian language is its use of diminutive and augmentative endings.  There are two primary augmentative endings in Italian: -one and -otto.  While -one purely means “big,” -otto connotes something slightly different: a rounder, sometimes chubby sort of largeness – just like it sounds!  The point is that I called this dish “manicotti” simply because I liked to the think of the stuffed tubes of pasta as chubby little “sleeves” (maniche=sleeves). 

In doing some research for this post, I was surprised to discover that there is absolutely no mention of manicotti in any of my Italian cookbooks.  This includes a number of books dedicated solely to pasta (and even detailing dialectical variations of pasta names).  My go-to Italian dictionary (Garzanti Linguistica) defines a manicotto as (1) a sleeve usually made of fur and open on both ends (i.e. a handwarmer) or (2) a cylindrical joint used to connect two tubes or to transmit rotary motion between two coaxial shafts.  There is no official culinary meaning of manicotti in Italian, and the accepted definitions don’t sound like something I’d want on my dinner plate.

On the other hand, Garzanti Linguistica defines a cannellone as a fat tube of stuffed pasta, dressed with sauce and baked. Cannellone is made up of the root word canna (meaning cane, reed, or tube) with both a diminutive (-ello) and an augmentative (-one) ending.  A bit simpler. And more appetizing.

You may argue that you have, in fact, eaten manicotti at an Italian American restaurant and that it wasn’t, in fact, a mechanical part or a winter accessory.  It has been Brian’s experience that Italian-American restaurants use the term cannelloni for meat-stuffed pasta tubes and manicotti for those stuffed with vegetables and cheese.  Others argue that the distinction is based upon whether or not the pasta is ridged or whether it comes as flat sheets or pre-made tubes.  Some say that one is savory and the other sweet or that manicotti are traditionally made with crepes rather than pasta (this may be specifically Southern Italian or Argentinian-Italian).  In order to avoid confusion, I’ll stick with reputable sources and go with the term cannelloni.

Now, on with the recipe…


I’ve been pleased to find chard (aka Swiss chard, rainbow chard, etc.) almost year round at the farmers market, so we’ve eaten a lot of it throughout the winter months and into spring and early summer.  I was recently looking for a new way to use chard and found myself with tub of local ricotta and all the ingredients for a baked pasta dish: a jar of my passata, a few eggs, some flour, and cheese…and ecco: cannelloni with chard! It’s a subtle but important variation on the often all-too-familiar baked pasta with spinach.

manicotti ingredients 

Cannelloni with Chard Cannelloni con Bietola

Yield 8 cannelloni. Serves 4.

6 ounces fresh pasta dough (~½ batch of homemade pasta all'uovo),
                                                                                cut into 8-10 6"x8" sheets
12 ounces passata (or tomato puree)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped (about 6 large leaves)
¼ teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

5-6 ounces chard
olive oil
1½ cup (about 14 ounces) ricotta
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 ounces whole milk mozzarella, freshly grated
2 ounces parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped (about 6 large leaves)
⅛ teaspoon salt
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

½ ounce finely grated parmesan

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Preheat oven to 375°F.

Wash chard and allow to drain (but do not dry completely).  Roughly chop chard.  In a large skillet, heat a small drizzle of oil over medium heat.  Add chard and cook, stirring frequently until wilted, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, stir together sauce ingredients and set aside.

In another medium bowl, stir together filling ingredients (including cooled chard) and set aside.

Salt the now-boiling water and cook fresh pasta sheets for 3 minutes, or until al dente.  (If using dried pasta, cook until al dente, according to package instructions.)  Drain and gently toss with a small amount of oil (to prevent sticking). 

In two 2-quart casserole dishes or one 9"x13" baking dish, spread about ¼ cup of sauce.


Working with one sheet at a time, lay pasta out on a flat surface (taking care not to tear it).  Spread with ¼ cup filling and, starting with a short end, roll the pasta into a tube and place in baking dish.


Repeat with remaining pasta and filling.  Top cannelloni with remaining sauce and bake for 30 minutes.  Top with remaining parmesan and bake another 5 minutes.


Allow to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.



Mom said...

It always makes me so happy (and a bit hungry) every time I read a new post. . . the work, the time, the research, etc., put into each dish. . . (laced with love and a passion for good, healthy food) are evident in each one. . .I always feel so much more educated and lucky to know the cook. Keep up the good cooking, my Lizzy girl. . .

Elizabeth said...

Thanks, Mom! :)

Micaella Lopez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Micaella Lopez said...

Ommigoodness! That looks so good! I am so hungry now!

I never thought to roll it in lasagna, and I do not like stuffing shells. This is awesome.

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