Apparently (and admittedly), there are not many items in the Finnish food scene that Italians are jealous of. Yet there is at least one thing which should make the green-eyed monster surface in my Italian friends: mushrooms.
Yes, there are mushrooms also in the Italian forests but less and with strict quotas and limitations for their picking. We Finns – on the other hand – can pick and choose as many porcini, chanterelles and funnel chanterelles as we wish. Woods closer to Helsinki can sometimes get a bit crowded (which by the Finnish standards means that you don’t have the whole forest only for yourself) but if you know even slightly what you are doing, you never have to leave them empty-handed. The only exception to this rule is if you go to a forest which has been earlier visited by my husband’s mushroom-professional aunts. In that case, you may need to drop by a supermarket (or those aunts) on your way back to your kitchen to be able to prepare e.g. today’s dish.
My experiments in the Italian kitchen have made me appreciate the Finnish porcini in a whole new way. When you add an Italian touch to utilizing them, it brings the admiration to the next level.
On the other hand, I have discovered that quite a few Italian mushroom recipes work well with e.g. funnel chanterelles. Today’s recipe is a fine example of those. It is also a good example of an ingenious trait of Italian food: you have a fairly short and simple list of ingredients but one ingredient can be utilized in several ways. In this recipe, the mushrooms are used in the filling of the cannelloni but also to add flavour to the bechamel sauce.
Cannelloni as an oven pasta dish is quite handy and nice at times apart from one exception. Dry cannelloni are a bit like women’s tights: very annoying to fill. As a workaround, I often use fresh lasagna sheets. I add the filling of the dish in question to one end of a lasagna sheet and roll the sheet into a cannelloni kind of tube. I only wish one day someone will come up with a workaround for those annoying tights too…
500 ml bechamel/ white sauce
250 g cannelloni (or a pack of fresh lasagna sheets)
50 g grated parmesan
1 garlic clove
500 g mushrooms
350 g ricotta
2 sprigs of parsley
Clean and slice the mushrooms into sufficiently small pieces. In a pan, heat some olive oil and add the garlic clove. Let it fry gently for a few minutes. Remove the clove from the pan and add the sliced mushrooms. Season with salt and fry them until the mushrooms are cooked. Season with pepper and chopped parsley.
Prepare the bechamel sauce with e.g. this recipe. Season it with 25 g of grated parmesan, a pinch of nutmeg and pepper. Add three tablespoons of the cooked mushrooms to the sauce. Move it to a blender and blend to obtain a smooth sauce.
Mix the remaining mushrooms with the ricotta and remaining parmesan to make the filling. Fill the dry cannelloni (or use the lasagne sheet workaround) with the mixture.
Take an oven dish and spread a thin layer of the mushroom bechamel sauce into it. Add the filled cannelloni. Pour the remaining bechamel sauce on top of the cannelloni. It is important to ensure all cannelloni are covered by the sauce to ensure they are properly cooked. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees for about 30 minutes (if you are using dry cannelloni; with the lasagne sheets, check the correct cooking time in the package of the sheets).