For me, Sunday afternoons are for cooking elaborate, time consuming meals. It’s not practical during the week. Friday nights, I’m exhaused. Saturday, I avoid the kitchen like the plague. But Sunday afternoon, I’m ready to spend a few hours reconnecting with the stove. This Chicken Cannelloni dish is made for Sundays. Even though I took a few short cuts, I still wound up in and out of the kitchen over the course of the next few hours. I didn’t mind. The weather was cool and I had wine to keep me company. M was napping and tapping away on his iPad. The dog would swing by every few minutes for a scrap of food. It was blissful.
I saw this recipe on Food Network, on Guy’s Big Bite. M and I had it on as background noise. That was, until this recipe came on. We both perked up and I quickly added it to my Pinterest board to remember to make it. On Sunday, which is usually my grocery shopping day, Harris Teeter has their cooked rotisserie chicken on sale for $4.99. It’s a great deal — I can’t buy an uncooked chicken for that price — and substituting the rotisserie chicken for Guy’s suggested home-smoked chicken cut a good two hours off my total kitchen time.
The sauce is a simple blender (or food processor) sauce with roasted red pepper, fire roasted tomatoes and a touch of cream. The filling is reminiscent of lasagna filling, but packed with some extra vegetables including spinach and fire roasted tomatoes. We were both shocked at how light this dish actually was — and while I could have easily frozen half for a later date, I enjoyed it for the rest of the week as lunch. It reheated really well. It’s a great recipe when you want to change up your usual Italian casserole routine.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 12 ounces jar chopped roasted red pepper, drained
- 4 ounces chopped fire-roasted tomatoes, drained
- Salt and pepper
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1 8-ounce box manicotti shells, cooked
- 1 pound whole milk ricotta cheese
- 4 ounces whipped cream cheese
- 1 1/3 cups grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
- 1 large egg
- 3 grounds fresh nutmeg
- 2 cups chopped spinach leaves
- 1/2 cup chopped fire-roasted tomatoes, drained
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 plain rotisserie chicken
- Shred the rotisserie chicken breast and set aside 1 1/2 cups for the cannelloni (reserve the rest for another use). Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- In a large sauce pan, heat oil over medium. Saute the onions until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook one minute. Add in the peppers and tomatoes. Simmer for 5 minutes. Process the sauce on high in a blender (or food processor) until smooth. Return the sauce to the pot, reduce the heat to low and whisk in the cream. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, cream cheese, one cup of the Parmesan, egg and nutmeg. Fold in the shredded chicken, spinach, tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the filling into a large gallon ziptop bag. Seal the bag and cut off a corner to make a pastry bag. Spread 1/2 cup of the creamy roasted red pepper sauce evenly on the bottom of a 9- by 13-inch dish. Pipe about 2 1/2 tablespoons of the filling into the manicotti shells and place them into the dish. Spoon the remaining sauce over the cannelloni. Sprinkle with the panko and remaining Parmesan. Cover and bake until the filling is cooked through, about 30 minutes. Bake uncovered until the top is golden and bubbling, an additional 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and cool 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with Parmesan and serve.