Broccoli and Ricotta Cannelloni

I'm not a vegetarian. I don't think I ever will be, but for health reasons I have decided to try to find some decent non-meat recipes I could add to the weekly meal rotation. It's really sort of an awakening for me and also a big step where diet is concerned. It dawned on me the other day that, except for breakfast on most days, I eat meat for every meal. So far I've had a mixed reaction to my research. I've perused some cookbooks where my instinct toward dishes and ingredients has been WTF? but I have found a couple of books with some decent content.

Now, I'm not about to renounce meat or start ranting about animal rights. I am a proud member of PETA People Eating Tasty Animals (for those of you who haven't heard that one). In fact! I bet most carnivores like myself might be more open to the idea of eating non-meat meals if non-meat selections didn't include jacked up ingredients including Bragg and his liquid aminos or replacing that succulent medium-rare grilled bone-in ribeye with TVP - textured vegetable protein. Yum! It's just that my bowling ball tum has made a comeback along with flaring IBS symptoms again lately, so this is just an experiment to see if lightening the meat load will help slow those roles (rolls would work here too).

This recipe has been adapted from Vegetarian: Over 300 Healthy and Wholesome Recipes Chosen from Around the World. This book has been helpful and accessible in my exploration of vegetarian dishes. Recipes contain comprehensible ingredients the layman brute carnivore like myself can understand.

A printer-friendly version of this recipe can be found by clicking here.
I got a big pot of water heating to boil for the pasta. In the meantime I trimmed down my broccoli and prepped it for steaming. As soon as both pots are boiling I'll drop the pasta and the broccoli so they're both finished in about 7 minutes. I'm going for al dente pasta and tender but non-mushy broc.

Pasta got a little more done than I wanted but it's fine. Also, I used Manicotti noodles instead of Cannelloni simply because the store doesn't carry Cannelloni. I've rinsed the pasta to prevent the noodles from sticking, and to help slow the cooking process.

Broccoli has been perfectly steamed and added to the food processor to cool for a few minutes before I let this whirl.

While the broccoli is cooling I went ahead and put my breadcrumbs, milk, and oil into a bowl.

Mixed up bread crumbs, milk, and oil.

Added the ricotta cheese. I use part skim instead of whole milk ricotta - easier on the tum.

I need the broccoli now so I'm going to fire the food processor. By the way, I barely use this thing to begin with, so the thought of processing broccoli in here was just kind of weird, and the results matched my expectations.

Pureed green shit that was once broccoli now gets added to the breadcrumb mixture.

Salt, Pepper, Parm to season - mix it up real good because you don't want to take a bite of pure oily breadcrumbs.

And the end result.

The sauce is easy - I'm using a saucepan even though the instructions say frying pan to heat some oil and saute some onions and garlic. When that's ready stir in 2 cans of chopped tomatoes.

Add tomato paste, black olives, thyme, salt and pepper. Let this boil for a couple of minutes before pouring the sauce into ovenproof baking dish(es).

The directions say to use a pastry bag and a 1/2 inch nozzle to stuff the "cannelloni." I own no such fancy devices, so I used a long-handled iced-tea spoon and really crapped up my noodles. Oh well. Next time I'll use jumbo shells anyway.

The directions say to use 4 ovenproof baking dishes, but not only am I short on all of the fancy gadgets and dishes the directions suggest, but I am just downright defiant! I used my 2 1/2 qt casserole dish instead.

Sprinkle a little Parm and some pine nuts. I used walnuts that I smashed with a meat tenderizer instead because pine nuts cost more than printer ink. Yes, the walnuts worked just fine.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

This dish was a huge hit for my family and me. Wife went for seconds and Kiddo wolfed hers down despite the fact she doesn't normally like red sauce. It worked really well for Kiddo especially because the dish isn't inundated with red sauce like most pasta-type dishes are, but also because she got ate least a full serving of broccoli probably without even realizing it. Kiddo actually likes broccoli, but if you have kids who don't like their veggies, this is a perfect dish to hide them in.

Great taste, great texture, and very filling. I'm very satisfied with this dish - it's definitely going into the rotation. This is also very affordable and doesn't require a tremendous amount of work to prepare either. You won't be sorry if you try this!

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