I decided to show you this failed dish because the idea was a good one and it was my cooking to blame for the outcome. I am going to try it again but need a smaller dish and more filling – it was my proportions of pasta to filling that was all wrong.
My first suggestion is to consider the dish you are going to use to bake the cannelloni in first – you need one that is tall enough to allow you to stand the cannelloni up but not so large that you have to put more cannelloni in than desirable – my dish was too big and so I ended up using 2 whole packets of cannelloni but in the meantime I had carefully made enough meat sauce and white sauce for about half that amount!
You will no doubt have a favourite meat sauce for pasta. I think the key to a good one is letting it simmer slowly for a long time and adding the liquid in stages as it starts to evaporate.
Ingredients – mince (ground beef), slice of ham, finely diced carrot, diced courgette (zucchini), 2 large mushrooms (chopped), small tin of tomatoes, passata, ginger water, red wine (shiraz), salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaf, oil for frying (I used a mix of garlic oil and chilli oil). Most meat sauces will have onion in them but I can't tolerate it – love the flavour but they don't love me back!
Fry off you carrot first, followed by the minced beef. Then add your courgette and mushroom. Then your finely diced ham and the bay leaf. Season with salt pepper and Worcestershire sauce.
When it is all browned a bit, add your liquids – gradually alternating them until the mixture has absorbed it all and it isn't too sloppy. A bit of a labour of love, I'm afraid.
I cheated with the white sauce. I used a store bought cheese sauce as a base and then added cream, cream cheese, cayenne pepper and salt and pepper to it. It tasted quite nice.
Assembling the dish
I greased the dish and then put some of the meat sauce on the bottom. On reflection I put too much on the bottom – I thought it would help the cannelloni stand up but it didn't make any difference. Get your cannelloni into the dish and then pour just under half your meat sauce into the tubes – this is a bit fiddly but it is important that the tubes are filled – I found this out the hard way.
Then pour in your white sauce (reserving a little for pouring in a swirl over the top if you fancy that sort of thing). Then finish off with your meat sauce – my cannelloni were only just over half full.
I tried to make up for this by putting grated cheese on top.
So the end result was a nice pasta dish where the tubes were filled and horrible dried pasta where they weren't. The pics make the dish look better than it was.