Pancake cannelloni

While cannelloni are usually made with dried pasta shells, Pippa Mattei has a great recipe that substitues the pasta with pancakes. Stuff them with anything you like from ricotta and spinach to meat, salmon and asparagus or chicken and ham. 

Rachel Zammit Cutajar
28 February 2017, 11:09am
Pippa’s perfect pancakes

Makes 12

  • 500ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • To cook the pancakes, approx 50g lard or sunflower oil

  1. Place all the ingredients in the food processor except the flour and liquidize at minimum speed.
  2. Remove the cap and spoon in the flour.
  3. Replace the cap and switch on to maximum speed. Blend for 30 seconds.
  4. Allow to stand for 15 mins.
  5. Using a small crepe pan approx 23cm in diameter, melt 1 tbsp of lard or oil in the pan on high heat, swirling it round to cover the whole pan. Tip the excess fat. (The pan needs to be coated in fat, but the pancakes should not be cooked in fat).
  6. Turn the heat down to medium and add 1 ladle of the pancake mix, tipping it around from side to side to get the base evenly coated. It should only take 30 seconds or so to cook.
  7. Lift the edge with a palette knife and if the pancake is tinged golden underneath, carefully turn it over with an egg-slicer or toss it if you think you can and cook for a further 10 seconds.
  8. Carefully slip the pancake onto a sheet of greaseproof paper.
  9. Continue like this, adding 1 tbsp of the melted fat until all the pancakes are ready (heat more fat if necessary).
  10. Set aside with greaseproof paper in between each pancake till you are ready to use them after you have made the filling and sauces.

Minced meat and spinach

  • 600g fresh beef and pork, minced
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • A few basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree (kunserva)
  • 1kg fresh spinach, cooked and drained (or 250g frozen spinach, cooked and drained)
  • 1 egg
  • 50ml fresh cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 tbsp Parmesan or cheddar cheese, grated

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the peeled and chopped onion and crushed garlic. Cook until the onion is soft.
  2. Add the meat and cook, stirring occasionally, until brown. Pour off any surplus fat.
  3. Add the oregano, basil and tomato puree, and cook uncovered for a few minutes. Add the prepared spinach to the meat mixture.
  4. Mix well and take off the heat.
  5. Add the grated cheese.
  6. Combine lightly beaten egg and the cream and pour over the meat mixture.
  7. Mix well, season with salt and pepper and set aside until required to fill the pancakes.

Chicken and Ham

  • 500g chicken breast
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 250g good ham, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 40g butter
  • 40g plain flour
  • 425ml cold milk
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan, grated

  1. Gently fry the chicken breast in butter till cooked through, adding salt and pepper.
  2. Remove from the pan, chop and set aside.
  3. Make a white sauce by combining the butter, flour, milk and salt and pepper in a saucepan over a medium heat.
  4. Whisk until the sauce begins to bubble and thicken. Stir over a low heat until very thick, then add the grated parmesan cheese to the sauce.
  5. Remove from the heat and add the chicken, ham and parsley.
  6. Mix together and adjust the seasoning and set aside until ready to make the pancakes.

Spinach and ricotta

  • 1kg fresh spinach or 250g frozen spinach, cooked, well drained and chopped
  • 1kg ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • 6 tbsp Parmesan, grated
  • Salt and pepper

  1. Mix all the ingredients together and set aside until ready to fill the cannelloni pancakes.

Asparagus and smoked salmon

  • 200g smoked salmon, roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus, cooked and chopped
  • 1kg ricotta or cottage cheese
  • 6 tbsp cream or mascarpone cheese
  • 4 tbsp Parmesan, grated
  • Salt and pepper

  1. Mix all the ingredients together and set aside until ready to fill the cannelloni.

Béchamel sauce

  • 750ml milk, warmed
  • 6 level tbsp flour or corn flour
  • 100g butter
  • 50g Parmesan or cheddar, grated
  • 1 bay leaf
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and white pepper

  1. Warm the milk in a saucepan very gently.
  2. Melt the butter in another saucepan over a medium heat.
  3. Add the flour or corn flour, stirring with a wooden spoon until a roux is formed (thick creamy blend).
  4. Slowly add the warmed milk to the roux, stirring continuously until it begins to thicken.
  5. Add the bay leaf, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  6. Continue stirring for about 6 mins, by which time the sauce should have reached a smooth creamy consistency.
  7. Remove the bay leaf and add the grated cheese. Take off the heat and stir well.

Simple fresh tomato sauce with basil

  • 1kg pulpy red tomatoes, skinned and chopped (or 2 tins)
  • 4 tbsp tomato purée (kunserva)
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • Handful of basil leaves (torn, not chopped)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

  1. Heat olive oil in a saucepan and add the garlic, salt and pepper.
  2. Fry until the garlic turns golden, then add the tomatoes plus the tomato purée.
  3. Add sugar and the torn basil leaves.
  4. Stir well and then allow to thicken over a low heat, put aside.

To assemble the cannelloni

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Place about 2 tbsp of the filling of your choice in the centre of each pancake.
  3. Fold in the ends and roll up neatly. 
  4. Pack them side-by-side in a well buttered oven-to-table dish.
  5. Pour the prepared tomato sauce over them, and then pour on the béchamel sauce down the centre.
  6. Sprinkle some extra grated cheese such as parmesan or cheddar or mozzarella over them, and bake for about 45 minutes until very hot and bubbling.
  7. Allow to settle for 5 mins and serve one cannelloni per person as a starter, or two as a main course, making sure each is well coated with the two topping sauces.

Rachel Zammit Cutajar graduated in economics from the University of Malta...