New Traditions. Smothered in mozzarella and parmesan and topped with Kalamata olives, 10 individual cannelloni pastas stuffed with homemade ricotta cheese, ground moose, and spinach await dinner guests.
Cooking in bush Alaska requires a certain amount of ingenuity and flexibility. Last year when I made a couple of pans of moose lasagna, with no ricotta cheese on hand I substituted mozzarella and called it lasagna anyway. It was excellent. The hot, stringy mozzarella was reminiscent of a deep dish Margherita pizza.
When a friend gave me a few pounds of moose again this year, Barbra said, “I’ll make you ricotta cheese for your lasagna.” She also made the pasta – 20 five-inch-by five-inch squares, ready to be rolled around ricotta cheese, spinach, sautéed moose burger and tomato sauce. This is not traditional cannelloni, but, like last year’s lasagna, has twin roots in Italy and Alaska.
A serving of two moose, spinach and ricotta cannelloni fresh out of the oven. Each cannelloni (literal translation, “big reed”) is a five-inch-long cylinder of fresh pasta wrapped around ricotta cheese and other ingredients.
Moose and Spinach Cannelloni
Ingredients for one 13 x 9 inch baking dish:
- 1/2 pound ground moose, sautéed in olive oil till browned
- pasta to make ten 5 x 5 inch tubes (cannelloni). (Or substitute store-bought manicotti.)
- three 6-oz. cans tomato paste with enough water to thin the sauce to the thickness of marinara sauce
- fresh spinach, cut so that the leaves will easily fit into cannelloni tubes (or substitute frozen spinach)
- 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
- 1/4 pound mozzarella cheese grated (about 1 cup)
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese grated fine
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Italian herbs, separated into 2 equal parts
- 1 tsp ground fennel (optional)
- 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
- several grinds of black pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt (optional)
- additional mozzarella and parmesan cheese to top cannelloni before baking (optional)
- Kalamata olives, sliced in half lengthwise (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place tomato paste, garlic, olive oil, black pepper, half the Italian herbs, fennel (and salt, if desired) in a nonreactive bowl and mix together, adding water to thin till sauce is just pourable.
- Cover a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with a layer of tomato sauce. Set aside remaining sauce.
- Place ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan into a large bowl. Add remaining Italian seasoning, a few grinds of pepper and mix together well by hand.
- Shape a piece of ricotta blend so that it lays end-to-end across one of the pasta squares. Position a few pieces of spinach leaves next to the ricotta. Use a spoon to lay down a thin bed of tomato sauce Add moose meat. Roll the pasta into a tube, pinch/press closed and position the tube seam side down atop the tomato sauce in the baking dish.
- Repeat till all the pasta squares have been filled and placed in the baking dish. Cover the cannelloni with the remaining sauce.
- (Optional). If desired, sprinkle grated mozzarella and parmesan atop the sauce-covered cannelloni. Top with Kalamata olives.
- Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and place on center rack of oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove foil and finish baking for an additional 5 to 10 minutes – to melt and lightly brown the cheese.