Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Pre-Thanksgiving (or any Fall evening) Feast: Savory Pumpkin Cannelloni with Sage Cream Sauce

By popular demand, the recipe for Savory Pumpkin Cannelloni with Sage Cream Sauce...

A little background on the recipe: when I had my personal chef service, I prepared Thanksgiving sides for several families in New Canaan and Darien. One year, a client’s family was all arriving the day before Thanksgiving and they wanted a dinner they could simply pop in the oven, so they could enjoy their company…something that would feed a crowd…that kids would eat…but that was still a little gourmet/special, since it was an annual family gathering. That is when I started making Pumpkin Cannelloni with Sage Cream Sauce, which has become an annual pre-Thanksgiving meal at our home too.

This dish is a perfect dinner party dish, or pre-Thanksgiving meal. It freezes perfectly, so you can make it well in advance of whenever you’re entertaining. Yesterday, my son delivered trays of it to teachers at his school, and the feedback is the same as it is each year: “Wow, will you please share that recipe?” And so, without further reminiscing about my last my pre-child career, I now share this fabulous recipe with you. The original was from Caprial Pence, and I have modified it somewhat.

Savory Pumpkin Cannelloni with Sage Cream Sauce(Serves 8, so double or triple according to your entertaining needs—and remember it freezes beautifully so make lots whenever you set aside time to make it!)

Sage Cream SauceI first make this in a large stock pot, and then let it cool while I am making the pumpkin filling.
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 large shallots, chopped
1 cup of dry white wine
2 cups (or ½ a box) of chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup of heavy cream
1 tub of mascarpone cheese (or you can substitute a block of cream cheese)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 hearty bunch of fresh sage, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Pumpkin FillingOlive oil
6-8 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 cup dry sherry
4 cups pumpkin puree (2 cans)
1 tub of mascarpone (or you can substitute a block of cream cheese)
¾ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese + extra to sprinkle on top before baking
1 cup mozzarella cheese + extra to sprinkle on top before baking
Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh pasta sheets (in Fairfield County they have them at Villarina’s)
To prepare the sauce: In a saucepan over high heat, combine the shallots, garlic and wine. Let the wine reduce down to about ¼ of a cup remaining. Add the chicken or vegetable stock and let that reduce down to about 1 cup of liquid remaining. Add the cream, lowering the heat to medium and let it warm for about 5 minutes (but not boil). Then add the mascarpone (or cream cheese), Dijon mustard and sage and let the sauce simmer until thick and the flavors are well blended. Season to taste and set aside, letting it cool down a bit while you make the pumpkin filling. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To prepare the filling: Heat olive oil in a sauté pan or fry pan until very warm, and then add the garlic and onion and sauté until they are golden. Add the sherry and reduce it down until there’s about ¼ cup of liquid left (which intensifies the flavor). Take off the heat and let cool a bit. In a separate large bowl, combine the pumpkin, mascarpone (or cream cheese), breadcrumbs, Parmesan and mozzarella. Mix well, then stir in the slightly cooled onions and mix well again. (I like to use a hand mixer since I have usually quadrupled the recipe and my arm would fall off trying to stir it. Plus, my kids love revving up the hand mixer…) Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To assemble the cannelloni: Preheat the oven to 350. Cut each sheet of pasta into quarters. One piece of pasta at a time, scoop a hearty line of filling in the center and roll it up, placing it seam side down in a casserole or other deep baking dish. Once you have rolled all of the cannelloni, pour the sage cream sauce over the top, sprinkle with cheese, then bake until golden brown (about 30 minutes). Let it sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

Pair with a nice green salad, a bottle of wine, and you’ve got a pre-Thanksgiving (or any fall evening special supper) that will make your friends and family swoon.

Hope your friends and family enjoy this special dinner as much as we do. Happy Thanksgiving!

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