Cannelloni Verdi Ripieni di Tonnarelli col Sugo di Belga

Green Cannelloni Stuffed with Tonnarelli with Endive Sauce

The event that prompted the creation of this dish was a day in September when Craig Claiborne simultaneously celebrated his sixty-second birthday, his twenty-fifth year at the Times, and the publication of his autobiography. Thirty-five of Craig’s friends from around the country and across the ocean came to East Hampton to cook for him and his guests. More than six hundred of the latter turned up. Under a vast tent, each cook had a table from which the dishes were served, except for Paul Prudhomme, who judiciously set up his flaming skillet of blackened redfish in the open air.

Craig had asked me to do a vegetable lasagne. I’d said I’d think about it. The people from Romagna are known for their obstinacy and independence and, since I am a romagnola, that may be the reason I find it difficult to accept directions. Whenever I am pushed to do one thing, I often end up doing something different. What I came up with in this case was to take my recipe for tonnarelli with endive sauce and wrap it in green cannelloni.

For Craig I had made the tonnarelli red, which together with the white of the sauce and the green of the wrappers provided an appropriately festive Italian national accent. When it comes to colored pasta, however, I strongly feel that the color must make gastronomic sense, that it must make a contribution to flavor, however subtle. There are only two ways to produce deeply colored red pasta that satisfies this criterion. One is to use commercially dried tomato powder, which, unfortunately, is usually unavailable to the general public. The second is to take tomato paste, dry it painstakingly in an oven, pulverize it, and mix it with the flour. The latter is too tedious for me to try it again, let alone propose it to others. For this book I have used tonnarelli made with basic egg pasta, which I find in no way diminishes the dish’s appeal to the eye or the palate.

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  • 1 recipe Belgian endive sauce
  • Tonnarelli made with 1 extra large egg and about ¾ cup flour (preferably hard-wheat flour), as described
  • Spinach pasta made with 2 extra large eggs; one 10-ounce package frozen leaf spinach, thawed; ½ teaspoon salt; and about cups unbleached flour, as described
  • Salt
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano (Parmesan) for the tonnarelli, plus ¼ cup for the cannelloni

For the Béchamel

  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • Pinch salt
  • A 10- by 12-inch oven-to-table baking dish or its equivalent
  • 2 tablespoons butter


  1. Make the endive sauce.
  2. Make the tonnarelli and spread out to dry.
  3. Make the spinach pasta as described, thinning it out to the next to last setting on the pasta machine. Spread the strips of dough, just as they come from the machine, on cloth towels.
  4. Drop the tonnarelli into a pot of abundant boiling salted water and cook until they are done but barely tender, very firm to the bite. Drain immediately, transfer to a platter, and toss at once with the endive sauce. Add ½ cup grated cheese and toss again. Set aside.
  5. Cut the green pasta strips into rectangles 5 to 6 inches long, leaving them as wide as they come from the machine. Drop 4 or 5 pieces at a time into boiling salted water. Cook them for no more than 10 seconds, retrieve them with a colander spoon, rinse them in a bowl of cold water, wringing them gently as though they were cloth, and spread flat, without overlapping, on cloth towels to dry.
  6. Turn on the oven to 450°.
  7. Make the béchamel as described.
  8. Use about ½ tablespoon of the butter to smear the bottom of the baking dish.
  9. Spread 1 to 2 tablespoons of béchamel on a plate. Place 1 of the green pasta rectangles over the béchamel, sliding it back and forth so that its underside becomes coated. Place just a few tonnarelli but thickly sauced, over the green pasta. Roll up the green pasta strip loosely, jelly-roll fashion, forming a cannellone.
  10. Place the cannellone in the pan, the overlapping edge facing down. Repeat the operation, laying the cannelloni snugly side by side in the pan, until there are no more cannelloni left to be done. From time to time spread more béchamel over the plate, but make sure not to use up all the béchamel.
  11. Spread the remaining béchamel over the cannelloni in the pan, forcing some of it into the spaces between one cannellone and another. Sprinkle the top with ¼ cup of grated cheese and dot with the remaining butter.
  12. Bake in the uppermost level of the preheated oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until a golden brown crust forms on top. Allow to settle for at least 5 minutes after removing from the oven before serving.