Chicken and ricotta cannelloni

Chicken and ricotta cannelloni


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About this recipe: Cannelloni tubes are often filled with rich beef or veal mixtures, but this lighter version uses chicken with fresh vegetables to make a deliciously satisfying dish. The cannelloni can be stuffed and assembled early in the day, and left in the fridge until you are ready to bake them. Serve with crusty bread and a green salad.

Norma MacMillan

Serves: 6 

  • 300 g (10½ oz) minced chicken
  • 55 g (2 oz) red pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 55 g (2 oz) leek, finely chopped
  • 55 g (2 oz) frozen peas
  • 250 g (9 oz) ricotta cheese
  • 55 g (2 oz) mascarpone cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, chives or basil, or a mixture
  • 24 x 7.5 cm (3 in) no-precook cannellonitubes, about 185 g (6½ oz) in total
  • salt and pepper
  • Sauce
  • 900 ml (1½ pints) semi-skimmed milk
  • ½ onion, studded with 4 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 55 g (2 oz) plain flour
  • Topping
  • 45 g (1½ oz) fine fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs
  • 45 g (1½ oz) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Prep:50min  ›  Cook:40min  ›  Ready in:1hr30min 

  1. To prepare the sauce, pour the milk into a heavy-based saucepan. Add the clove-studded onion, bay leaf, nutmeg and seasoning to taste. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat, cover and set aside to cool completely. This allows time for the ingredients to flavour the milk.
  2. While the milk is infusing, heat a non-stick frying pan over a moderately high heat, add the minced chicken and cook until it turns white and crumbly, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Put the diced red pepper, leek and frozen peas in a heatproof bowl, pour in enough boiling water to cover them and leave for 30 seconds. Drain the vegetables well in a sieve.
  4. Beat the ricotta, mascarpone and egg together, then mix in the chicken, the drained vegetables and herbs. Season to taste.
  5. Now return to making the sauce. Using a draining spoon, remove and discard the flavourings from the cool milk. Whisking constantly, sprinkle the flour into the milk. When all the flour is incorporated, return the pan to a moderate heat and bring the sauce to the boil, still whisking. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, whisking frequently, for about 3 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F, gas mark 6). Spread a layer of sauce on the bottom of a 30 cm (12 in) square ovenproof dish.
  7. Use a teaspoon and your finger to fill the cannelloni tubes with the chicken mixture. Arrange them in a single layer on the sauce in the dish. Spoon the remaining sauce over the top.
  8. For the topping, mix together the breadcrumbs and the Parmesan cheese, and sprinkle this over the cannelloni. Bake for 35–40 minutes or until the topping is crisp and golden and the sauce bubbling hot. Leave to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Some more ideas

For a fat-free topping, omit the Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs, and lay sliced skinned tomatoes over the sauce-coated cannelloni. * Use 85 g (3 oz) finely chopped, well-trimmed Parma ham instead of the chicken, and replace the leek with 2 finely chopped spring onions. Increase the peas to 100 g (3½ oz). * Replace the sauce with a classic béchamel made with 900 ml (1½ pints) milk and 85 g (3 oz) each butter and flour. The béchamel sauce will increase the fat content of the dish as well as the calories, but is delicious for a special occasion.

Plus points

Adding vegetables to cannelloni fillings will ‘stretch’ a small quantity of protein food, such as chicken. Frozen vegetables are better than canned as vitamins are destroyed during the canning process; however, when fresh or frozen vegetables are not available, use canned types to contribute fibre, flavour and bulk. Interestingly, from research carried out by a well-known frozen food company, frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh and, in many cases, they contain a higher level of vitamin C.

Each serving provides

A, calcium * B2, B12, C, niacin * B1, B6, copper, potassium, selenium

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