Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cannelloni Di Magro Con Funghi

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I have written about Harry's Bar in Venice on a few occasions, here,  here and here, so I won't bore you with more of the same.  Suffice it to say, it is expensive but their food is very, very, good.  Why?  They get the best and freshest ingredients before anyone else in Venice, and everything, including their pasta, is made on the premises every day.  The people who go there, those you are hoping to see, don't care what they pay for a meal.  They are there to eat with other people they know, enjoy a menu they are familiar with and get good service.   That is the secret of places like Harry's Bar in Venice and Swifty's in New York.  Thus,  if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it.

Nowadays I couldn't afford to go to Harry's Bar unless I'm invited, so I can only dream about and cook some of my favorite dishes from their cookbook.  The recipes are excellent and authentic and everything they are famous for is in this book.   Unfortunately our ingredients can't compete with those they are able to get.  Like tomatoes from Sicily, fresh seafood from the Adriatic, incredible white peaches in the Spring and the list goes on.  Not only that, you can't replicate the ambiance.  This is something I  have learned from wines.  Have you ever gone to a restaurant and ordered a wine that was simply fantastic?  Then you have gone out and bought a bottle, same vineyard, same year but it just  didn't taste the same.  You are not the only one.  The difference is subjective, and it has to do with the ambiance in the restaurant where you had it, the mood you were in, who you were with and what you had to accompany the wine.  All that being said, this recipe is as close to what I remember having in Venice


 Don't be intimidated.  This looks a bit involved because there are five things to prepare before assembling the dish: Making the filling, cooking the pasta, making the tomato sauce and the béchamel sauce and sauteeing the mushrooms.  Most of these components are on hand every day at the restaurant and all the cooks have to do is integrate them into the dish. If you want to make these with zucchini, for example, just substitute sautéed zucchini for the mushrooms and you have another variable of the same recipe.  All I can do to minimize the process  is suggest you have some ready made tomato sauce always in the freezer, like I do.  The spinach filling can be made early in the day and refrigerated.  Everything else needs to be done on the spot.

One of the things I have saved you from is making homemade pasta.  Kind of.  I have done this several times and it works like magic. I hate the curly edges on most lasagna noodle brands and substitute Barilla's No Boil lasagna sheets, except I boil them for a few minutes to make them pliable and easy to work with.

My pictures are terrible and I wish they did justice to the results.  I did over broil a bit so watch carefully.  I also had one too many and ended up with the tomato sauce and mushrooms on top of the béchamel sauce, instead of the other way around.   This is what happens when you post pictures with your recipes.  No touch ups or replays.  Just like the Tonight Show!

Cannelloni di Magro Con Funghi
Spinach and ricotta filled cannelloni with mushrooms
Serves 6


For the Filling

1/2 10 oz  package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese or Gruyere
1/4 lb. whole milk mozzarella, diced
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. salt
freshly grated pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 egg yolk

For the Béchamel Sauce:

3 Tb butter
3 TB flour
1 1/2 Cup whole milk, hot
Salt and pepper
Pinch of nutmeg

Tomato Sauce:

1/2 onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, mashed
4 TB olive oil
1 28 oz box Pomi chopped tomatoes
1 tsp. chopped basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste

For the mushrooms:

4 cups thinly sliced shiitake or other mushroom
2 tb. butter
1 garlic clove
chopped parsley
1/2 cup dry white wine
salt and pepper to taste

1 package Barilla No Boil lasagna noodles


 Defrost the chopped spinach and squeeze all water from it. Put it in a food processor with the whole milk ricotta, the grated Gruyere cheese,  the whole milk mozzarella and grated Parmesan. Blend briefly to make a green, well-combined paste but do not overwork it.  Scrape mixture into a bowl and blend in the salt, pepper, cayenne and egg yolks.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

 Next, the béchamel sauce.

 Melt the butter in a pan then add the plain flour; cook over a medium heat until it becomes sandy textured. Add the hot milk, whisking all the time; bring to the boil, stirring – it will thicken. Season with nutmeg, salt and white pepper.

For the tomato sauce:

Add oil to the pan.  Sautee de onion and garlic until translucent.  Add the chopped  tomatoes and cook for about 15 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste and the chopped basil.  Cook for another 5 minutes.  The sauce can be made at any time, including the day before.

For the mushrooms:

Melt the butter over medium high heat.  Add the mushrooms and sautee until golden brown, 6-8 minutes.  Add garlic and parsley and cook for a couple of minutes.  Add the wine and boil down for 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

Assembling the cannelloni:

 To make Harry’s Bar Cannelloni de Magro con Funghi for six, spread half the béchamel in an ovenproof dish. Boil a large pan of salted water and drop in eight or nine dried egg-pasta lasagne sheets. Cook for three minutes, drain and lay on a tea towel, side by side.  Cut in half.

Fill with equal amounts of spinach mix then roll up and place seam side down in the dish on top of the béchamel.

 Cover with a layer of stir-fried sliced mushrooms, a layer of tomato sauce, then the remaining béchamel.

 Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven  until bubbling and browned, about 10 minutes.  Place 3 inches from the heat source and broil for 1 to 2 minutes, turning the pan around to brown evenly.  Serve immediately and pass the Parmesan cheese.

All pictures Lindaraxa
Recipe adapted from The Harry's Bar Cookbook


  1. Your dish looks excellent. I'm sure it must be close to what you had at Harry's. When we were in DC last week, I had the best Lasagna ever at an Italian restaurant called Floriana in Dupont Circle. It was light and airy and I have been obsessed with duplicating it. May give it a try.

    1. Marcella Hazan's recipe is here if you care to try. I need to take photography lessons like you did, but im so lazy about it!

  2. This looks like a rich, fancy update on traditional manicotti, with the spinach, two sauces, etc. Is there any reason why manicotti noodles couldn't be used? Either way, I have to try this my next trip back to Cleveland, where we have good Italian stores.

    1. Jim,

      Manicotti noodles are too heavy and big. If you can find cannelloni it's better. They come in squares in a box but unfortunately they don't have them in supermarkets here.

  3. A kitchen workout, but a heavenly worth while. Brava!

    1. By the time I was halfway through I was already tipsy.


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