- Food and Cooking
Cannelloni Au Gratin with Sardi Sauce
Sardi’s has been a long standing tradition in New York. For decades the restaurant has offered excellent food and outstanding service to well known and some not so well known celebrities and guests. There was a time when the restaurant was associated with the theater. Every actor in New York has at one time or another has been through the opening night ceremony of waiting at Sardi’s for the early morning reviews. Was it good or was it bad? The cast and crew trying to calm their butterflies by enjoying the fabulous fare offered by Sardi’s menu.
In the old days, Vincent Sardi Sr. was a legendary benefactor for broke and hungry actors as well as the lonely ones. Because of his kindness Vincent and the restaurant became a favorite among the acting set.
However, Sardi’s wasn’t known for just opening night waiting; they were also known for their closing night parties, another fond tradition. Although, there is always a chance to spot some star at the restaurant no matter what time of day it is. Those you don’t see in the flesh adorn the walls in the thousand or so caricatures that are part of Sardi’s fame.
Sardi’s ventured to Hollywood and elsewhere but the history of the restaurant remains in New York. In that history are countless dishes that helped earn the restaurant their reputation for superb food to match their excellent service.
This recipe for Cannelloni Au Gratin with Sardi’s Sauce was among the favorite dishes offered in the 1960s. While the recipe is involved, it is well worth the effort. Fortunately, most of it can be made in advance so that a hostess or host does not feel bogged down the night of a dinner party.
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Notes for Sauce
The sauce can be made ahead of time. Make and store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Excess sauce can be frozen and kept for up to 3 months.
Ingredients for Sardi's Meat Sauce
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/4 pound ground veal
- 1/4 teaspoon sage
- 1/4 teaspoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 1/4 pound (about 4 medium) mushrooms, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups tomatoes (fresh or canned), diced
- 1 cup tomato puree
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- salt to taste
Directions for Meat Sauce
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix together ground beef and veal then spread in the bottom of a large baking pan.
- Bake in oven for 20 minutes. Stir and cook 10 minutes longer.
- In a saucepan combine sage. oregano, salt, pepper, onion, mushrooms, and garlic.
- Stir over medium heat until warmed through.
- Spread onion mixture over meat and return to oven for 15 minutes.
- Remove the meat mixture from the oven and pour into a large saucepan.
- Add tomatoes, tomato puree, and tomato paste.
- Mix well and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour 15 minutes.
- Adjust taste with salt if needed. Cool and set aside until needed.
Notes for the Au Gratin
The Au Gratin can be made with Sugarless Crepes or with Cannelloni; both recipes will be supplied here. Although the original recipe required the filling to be rolled into a crepe and then stuffed into a cannelloni, the process will feel like it takes days to prepare the dish. A healthier alternative is to use one or the other, this also cuts down in the preparation time.
Ingredients for the Au Gratin Filling
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1/2 cup steamed spinach, chopped
1/4 cup fresh Parmesan, grated
3/4 cup chicken stock
Directions for the Au Gratin Filling
1. Place chicken and spinach in a blender or food processor and grind together.
2. Put chicken mixture into a medium saucepan.
3. Stir in the Parmesan and chicken stock.
4. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
5. Remove from heat and cool. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.
Ingredients for Cannelloni and Cannelloni Sauce
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup additional flour, for rolling.
4 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups hot chicken stock
Salt to taste
White pepper to taste
3/4 cup cheddar, finely grated
1 cup Sardi's Meat Sauce
1/2 cup light cream
Directions for Cannelloni
1. In a mixing bowl beat the eggs.
2. Gradually beat in flour a 1/2 cup at a time. This will make a sticky paste.
3. Turn paste out onto a pastry board.
4. Sprinkle the additional flour over the paste and knead in as much of the additional four as necessary to make the dough firm and smooth.
5. Divide the dough in half and cover with a towel.
6. Let rest for 30 minutes.
7. Roll out the cannelloni paste, half at a time, onto a floured board.
8. Roll very thin and cut into 6x4 rectangles.
9. Place on a towel to dry for a few hours or overnight.
10. Cook the cannelloni in rapidly boiling, salted water for 5 minutes. Drain and cover with cold water. Set aside.
Directions for Cannelloni Sauce
Note: it best to make the Cannelloni Sauce when you are ready to assemble the dish.
1. In a medium saucepan heat butter until melted.
2. Stir in the flour.
3. Add in the hot chicken stock and cook, stirring rapidly, until sauce is smooth and thickened.
4. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes.
5. Add salt and white pepper to taste.
6. Stir in cheddar cheese until melted.
7. Stir in Sardi's Meat Sauce and the light cream.
8. Mix well and keep hot.
Note for Sugarless Crepes
This Sugarless Crepes can be used in other dishes. They can be frozen between sheets of wax paper for future use. The recipe makes 12 crepes.
Ingredients for Sugarless Crepes
1/2 cup flour
Pinch of salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon butter
This recipe is designed to serve 6.
The Sardi's Meat Sauce can be used with other dishes as either a base in other sauces or as a freestanding pasta sauce.
All of the components of these recipes can be made in advance and frozen separately for later use.
Directions for Sugarless Crepes
1. Sift together flour and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
2. In a separate bowl combine egg and milk together.
3. Strain milk mixture into flour mixture.
4. Mix until batter is smooth.
5. Heat a small frying pan ( about 5 to 6 inches in diameter) until very hot. The crepes must be cooked quickly or they will be tough.
6. Put the butter into the pan and swirl to coat the bottom and sides.
7. As soon as the butter begins to brown pour about 2 tablespoons of batter into the pan.
8. Swirl the pan in a circular motion to spread the batter evenly and thinly to the edge.
9. Cook the crepe about 1 minute or until set and light brown on the bottom.
10. Turn with a spatula and cook and addition 20-30 seconds.
11. Turn out onto a towel to cool. Repeat with the remaining batter.
Assembling the Au Gratin
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Spread each crepe or cannelloni with about 2 tablespoons of chicken mixture and roll up.
3. Place 2 cannelloni per person in individual baking dishes.
4. Cover each set of cannelloni with a 1/2 cup of Cannelloni Sauce.
5. Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan.
6. Bake for 10 minutes and then serve.
Note: To assemble this recipe according to original presentation; place the chicken mixture in the crepe and roll then place the rolled crepe in a cannelloni and roll. Prepare the rest as directed.
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