My Buenos Aires Cannellonis are inspired by my time living in the “Paris of Latin America.” Each morning I would pass Mas Pastas, fogging up the glass window as three old men buzzed around the checker-floored pasta shop. One man would delicately drop dollops of ricotta onto rugs of ravioli pasta, another kneaded pizza dough and the other formed pillows of potato dough for fresh gnocchi. When I finally mustered up enough courage and enough Spanish, I became a regular at Mas Pastas, frequently stopping in for a dozen cannellonis (cheese-filled tubes of fresh pasta) to cook for friends and my host family.
While no cannellonis can really do Mas Pastas justice, here is my take on the most popular variations: cannellonis con jamon y queso (ham and cheese) and cannellonis con verduras (vegetables) topped with tomato sauce. On my next try, I might go for crab filled cannelloni with a bechamel sauce (yow!).
For this recipe, I use my secret weapon-wonton papers! You can find them in the produce section next to the vegan chorizo (why, why does that exist?) and the tofu shaped like chicken nuggets. Wonton papers are extremely versatile and really fun to work with. In addition to using them for cannellonis, I use them to make homemade raviolis; I even used them to make a quick lasagna once.
Filling: I make a very simple base filling of ricotta, cream cheese, mozzarella, 1 medium sauteed onion, seasoned with fresh garlic, salt and pepper. I then split the filling between two bowls and add vegetables to one and meat to the other:
For Jamon y Queso: I sautee cubes of pancetta (sturdy and salty, ideal for this dish) in a pan to make them nice and crispy before adding them to the filling. Cooked bacon, prosciutto, chicken or shrimp would be great alternatives.
For Verduras y Queso: I sautee frozen spinach (drain before adding to pan) with a zucchini cut into thin half-moons and seasoned with chili flakes. Mushrooms are a slammin’ addition.
Once the variations are added to each bowl of filling, I prepare a clean, flat surface and small dish of water (to seal the seam of the wonton paper) and then make the cannellonis:
Step 1: Scoop 2 heaping tablespoons of filling along one side of the wonton paper, careful not to let any get too close to the edge.
Step 2: Pull the wonton over the filling. Pressing your fingers flat on the cutting board, tug the wonton paper back (think how the guys at Chipotle wrap burritos). This will ensure that filling is tightly packed into the wonton paper.
Step 3: Once the filling is snug, roll the wonton paper once and wet the top edge with water.
Step 4: Finish rolling the wonton paper by sealing the wet edge to rest of the cannelloni.
Step 5: Line the bottom of a large glass dish with pasta sauce, place the cannelloni seam-side down.
Step 6: Cover with the remaining pasta sauce and mozzarella cheese, bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, until the top is bubbling.