Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and gravy, oh my! Christmas is upon us and so is the insane amount of turkey that will be consumed and made into sandwiches and soup for days. What if there was another food you could make for Christmas instead of turkey? If you have multiple dinners during the holidays and are dreading the two weeks of turkey leftovers that will follow, here’s something new to try that will give Christmas a bit of an interesting twist.
I moved to Spain two months ago and am looking forward to seeing what a Spanish Christmas is all about. Every region of Spain has their different traditions, but aside from that, Christmas is always about feast and family. For example, in Catalonia, where I’m living, Christmas must include soup and cannelloni.
“Canelons” are similar to cannelloni. Most North Americans are familiar with this recipe: cheese, tomato sauce, and noodle tubes stuffed with more cheese or meat or vegetables, but the Catalonians rarely use tomato sauce, reserving it for an ordinary weeknight when they run out of milk.
Catalan cannelloni is made with a béchamel sauce—creamy, simple, and of course, doused in grated cheese before going in the oven. Also, it can be filled with whatever is in season. Because beef tends to be more expensive in this country, ground pork or sausage is the go-to filler for the noodles. You could also use spinach or mushrooms as a filling, since both are more fall/winter vegetables—Catalonia is famous for wild mushrooms too.
It’s a rich and delicious meal that is the turkey of the Catalan Christmas dinner, perfect to switch up your own traditions and take a break from turkey round two (or three), or even as a Christmas Eve treat for your family as a pre-turkey feast. Really, it’s good for any time of year you’re craving cannelloni and need a new recipe. Give it a go! Whatever you eat this festive season, Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, and as they say in Catalan, Feliç Nadal, to all! And to all a fantastic food-coma siesta after dinner.
These Catalan canelons (makes four servings) are inspired by a recipe from EatCatalunya.com.
1 package dried cannelloni or lasagna square noodles
3/4 lb ground pork or pork sausage, or a mixture of both
salt and black pepper
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups whole milk
1 pinch of nutmeg (freshly grated preferred)
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/3 cup vi ranci, sweet sherry or vermouth
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
5 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 425º F.
Cook noodles according to the package until al dente. If using oven-ready cannelloni or lasagna, you will need to cook them in boiling water until al dente. Drain and lay out on paper towels.
To make béchamel, melt butter over low heat in a saucepan.
Remove the pan from heat and sprinkle in flour. Whisk to combine. Return to heat and cook for two to three minutes, stirring constantly.
Add milk gradually, whisking constantly, and cook, still stirring, until the sauce coats the back of a spoon (about three to five minutes). Add nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and keep warm.
In a frying pan, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until softened. Add ground meat and continue sautéing until cooked. Add wine and season with salt and pepper. Cook until wine reduces, for about four minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the egg yolks.
Grease a 9×12-inch baking dish. Stuff about one tablespoon of filling into each cannelloni noodle or, if using lasagna, place a tablespoon on each square and roll into a tube. Create a single layer of cannelloni on the bottom of the pan.
Whisk three-quarters of parmesan into the béchamel sauce and pour over cannelloni. Sprinkle with the rest of cheese and dot the surface with butter.