Sara’s secret: celebrity cannelloni

Twenty years ago, King Arthur Flour was a regional flour company. Beloved by New Englanders, we weren’t known outside the Northeast.

These days, King Arthur Flour can be found on supermarket shelves in all 50 states. We’re the top-selling organic flour in the country, as well as #1 in sales for whole wheat flour and bread flour. And our unbleached all-purpose? Well, we’re #2 to Gold Medal, but we’re gaining ground fast. And you know what they say about being #2—we try harder!

With all of this growth comes a lot of work—and certain perks. We’re playing with the big dogs now, which means we get to meet Famous Foodies—people like Julia Child. And Emeril Lagasse. Alice Waters, and Jacques Pepin. And you know what these celebrities all have in common? They’re nice.

Yeah, that’s right. Good people. Regular folks.

Julia—because that’s what everyone called her, just plain Julia—would look you in the eye, ask questions, and listen attentively. She was vibrant, enthusiastic, friendly, and what I’d term “a good egg.” Mario Batali, whom I met in his “pre-Molto” days scuffing around a trade show in Birkenstocks, was simply a good guy. As all the truly Big Stars seem to be. Including Sara Moulton, whose position as executive chef at Gourmet magazine; her books; a stint as executive chef on ABC’s “Good Morning, America,” and her long-running Food Network show, “Cooking Live,” have earned her millions of fans.

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Sara visited King Arthur recently to film some cooking lessons for us; to sign her books; and to take a class at our Baking Education Center. She stopped by for a potluck breakfast at 8 a.m., and sat and chatted for an hour with our impromptu group of customer service folks, test bakers, and computer guys. Warm, gracious, friendly and down-to-earth, Sara was everything you see on-screen. Another “good egg,” in the Julia tradition.

So next time you hear about celebrities acting out, or read about various stars and their shenanigans in People magazine, consider Sara Moulton. Or Julia. Or Emeril, or a host of other Friendly Foodies. These are folks you’d be happy to invite into your kitchen—and not just via the TV.

Here’s the recipe for one of the cooking lessons Sara filmed with us, Eggplant and Four-Cheese Canneloni.

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First step: peel the eggplant, and slice it about 1/3” thick, crosswise or lengthwise (larger slices cut in half). However you do it, you’ll need about 12 slices.

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Spray a baking sheet with olive oil, lay the eggplant on it in a single layer, and spray the slices with olive oil.

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Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake them while you’re making the crespelle (Italian crêpes).

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Combine all of the crespelle ingredients in a food processor or blender.

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Process until smooth. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes.

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After 30 minutes, the batter should still be be fairly thin; it should run freely from a spoon.

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Pour a scant 1/4 cup of batter into a 7 3/4” crêpe pan. Cook till beginning to brown on one side, flip it over, and cook very briefly on the other side, just till set. Notice I kind of mangled this one, but you know what? It’s fine; it’s going to disappear under a blanket of sauce and cheese.

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So here are your six crespelle, ready to go.

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And here’s the eggplant, soft and barely beginning to brown.

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Loosen the eggplant from the pan; you’ll see that their bottoms are a darker brown (or even charred—whoops!)

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Next, prepare the cheese: mozzarella, Parmesan, and fontina.

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Cut the Parmesan into chunks…

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…and grate coarsely.

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Add the Parmesan to the ricotta.

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Grate the mozzarella and fontina…

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…and mix with the ricotta and Parmesan. And there you have it: four-cheese filling.

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Put two slices of eggplant and a dollop of cheese filling towards the front edge of one crespella.

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Roll up the crespella with the filling inside…

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…making it into a smooth log.

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Nestle the crespelle snugly in a baking dish.

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Cover with your favorite tomato sauce…

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…and sprinkle with additional grated fresh Parmesan.

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Bake for about 35 minutes, till everything’s hot and melty.

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Serve individual cannelloni as appetizers; or two each as an entrée.

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P.S. Sara was nice enough to pose for a picture with me, so I had to share. Hi Mom!

Read, review, and rate (please!) Sara’s recipe for Eggplant and Four-Cheese Cannelloni.

Watch the video on our YouTube channel.

Buy vs. Bake:

Buy: Beretti’s Italian Restaurant, Coos Bay, Oregon. Your choice of meat and spinach filled crêpe or a ricotta & Parmesan cheese spinach filled crêpe, covered with a creamy white sauce, $13.99

Buy: Jacks Grill, Housatonic, Massachusetts. Grilled Eggplant Cannelloni Appetizer, $7.00

Bake at home: Sara Moulton’s Eggplant and Four Cheese Cannelloni, $1.46 per cannelloni

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Sandy

    How cool is that!!!! I always felt Sara was a regular person from her cooking shows. She just seemed so real and so nice even down to her flubs while filming her show. It helped to know someone so gifted could boof up in the kitchen now and then! Those cannelloni look wonderful…must try them soon!

    Reply
  2. Eric

    Was Beretti’s a completely random Google, or is there something I should know on my twice-monthly trips through lovely Coos Bay, OR?

    E

    TOTALLY random, Eric – I just was looking for menu prices, and that’s the first one I found. But hey, give ‘em a try… let us know, they might be a secret jewel in the Northwest’s crown! – PJH

    Reply
  3. Kay

    It makes sense that Julia was listening attentively, it turns out she was a civilian operative (a.k.a. spy) in the Office of Strategic Services formed by FDR.

    If you read her biography, I think you’ll conclude she wasn’t a “spy,” but rather doing office work for the OSS in their overseas offices. Both her bio. and autobiography are fascinating, for anyone who’d like to read more about this truly lovely woman. – PJH

    Reply
  4. trish

    Any ideas on making this without eggplant? I’ve tried eggplant two or three times over the past ten years and just don’t like it :(.

    Trish

    Trish, how about zucchini? Sweet onion or roasted pepper? Heck, you could just go with the cheese, too. You simply need to fill the cannelloni with something you like, and something that goes with the remaining flavors. Prosciutto? – PJH

    Sara notes in the video accompanying this recipe if you’re a meat eater you can put in some prosciutto, salami or “whatever makes you happy.” Feel free to experiment with fillings you like. -TP

    Reply
  5. Lulu

    You said:
    “With all of this growth comes a lot of work—and certain perks. We’re playing with the big dogs now, which means we get to meet Famous Foodies—people like Julia Child….”

    Just a small point. When you say that, it sounds like you’re saying (in the present tense) something like: We’ve been seeing a alot of famous food people recently including Julia Child!

    ….

    Since I know you didn’t mean you saw Julia Child recently (and perhaps that’s not clear to everyone), you might want to consider rephrasing that, perhaps giving your readers some concept of time scope.

    On a side note: (not to be argumentative) but in regards to Kay’s comment: if JC had been doing anything clandestine for the war, one would not expect it to be in her biography before it was declassified. Even then, she may not have wanted to talk about it. That being said, I’m inclined to agree with you that the recent hoopla is almost certainly overblown.

    Lulu

    Thanks for the clarification, Lulu – I’m sure your comment will alert people to the fact that I could have been clearer in that paragraph about Julia no longer being with us. As for her OSS service, my opinion is it doesn’t matter whether or not she was a WWII spy 50 years before I met her; to me, it matters that she treated me—a “nobody”—like a peer. And I’ll always have a fond spot in my heart for her. – PJH

    Reply
  6. Carolyn T

    We had a wonderful man as a member of our church here in Southern California, Tom Moon, (he died about a year ago) who wrote several books about the OSS (he was in the OSS himself, although he was an American). He regaled many of us with stories about Julia and WWII in general. He was involved with her hire. The OSS wanted an agent who knew France (she did) and spoke perfect French (she did). But, the powers that be looked at this red-headed woman who was about 5 feet 10 inches high and decided she had too flashy a profile to be a clandestine spy. In other words, she didn’t wouldn’t have been able to blend in and be invisible. She worked for the OSS, but as far as we ever heard she worked in an OSS office and was never sent in-country (France).

    Reply
  7. granny

    can you use all-purpose flour for the crepes

    Yes, All-Purpose flour can be substituted in this recipe. Frank from KAF

    Reply
  8. Beth

    What a coincidence. I made eggplant parmesan tonight along with KAF’s recipe for “Light As Air” Focaccia (using Italian-style flour). I kept patting myself on the back all night, thinking it was the best eggplant parmesan I’ve ever made. I think adding the green chilles put it over the top. I still have one eggplant left, so I think I’ll try this recipe. By the way, the lady who says she doesn’t like eggplant: Try to find a homegrown one. Peel the eggplant, slice into 1/4 inch thick slices, let soak in salted water for 30 minutes. Rinse, drain and then fry the eggplant by first dipping the eggplant in a beaten egg, and then coating with breadcrumbs. You might decide you like eggplant.

    An aside to PJ: Ginger Gold, Virginia Gold and Golden Supreme apples are ready for picking in VA. Do you want me to send you some? I think we’re going to the orchard on Wednesday or Thursday. It’s been so terribly dry here the last month I’m not sure if that has affected flavor, but let’s hope not.

    Hey, good advice. I just had some of my mother-in-law’s eggplant parm this weekend; mmm-MMMM! She slices it ultra-thin, dips in a batter of egg/Parmesan cheese, then fries, then layers with marinara; no other cheese, just the parm in the batter. Thanks for the apple offer, too – but we get those Ginger Golds up here, and they should be ready within a couple of weeks, so I’ll hold out and save you the trouble! I love apple season here – we have probably 10 heirloom varietals from the little orchards around here, and are they ever tasty… enjoy yours! – PJH

    Reply
  9. Lorraine Stevenski

    I love Sara Mouton’s new show on PBS. I have learned so many new ideas and techniques for a quick dinner. Try her ricotta gnocci (recipe in her website). For those who don’t like eggplant; try coating with Italian crumbs and then a quick saute. Then use for the filling in the cannelloni. Easy on the marinara sauce as you don’t want to overpower the cannelloni.

    Reply
  10. Sue E. Conrad

    Ah, yes – being #2 on the flour hit parade!! Grew up with Gold Medal flour, and now I wouldn’t use it for any amount of money……….its consistency reminds me of talcum powder!!! Thank goodness KA is so widely available at this point. I’ve even steered other customers in the grocery stores in Florida to King Arthur, especially if they seem to be wavering over their choices!! Hey, gotta do my part!!

    Sue, thank you SO MUCH – on behalf of me and my fellow 167 co-owners. Yes, King Arthur Flour is employee-owned, and it DOES make a difference. We try harder… and we really care a lot, about our flour and especially, about our customers. PJH

    Reply
  11. Casey

    And the baking dish you’ve used is one I bought from Baker’s Catalog and now I can
    see its pale green glaze as the perfect surround for this fabulous looking dish. Perfect
    for company presentation!

    Reply
  12. oz Heelee

    For others that don’t like egg plant, try this recipe with tart apples! I did it with Granny Smith apples and it was absolutely exquisite. I find that most people are afraid of using fruit in their cooking until they try it once or twice.

    Reply
  13. Lisa

    Thanks for the notes on Julia and Sara. I read Julia’s autobiography last year and loved it and loved hearing in her words about her life. I also subscribe to the Baking Sheet and altho I loved it in the original format I am getting used to the new. My pet peeve? “Dump all the ingredients in your bread machine…” I don’t have a bread machine and never intend on getting one. This makes these recipies no matter how wonderful they sound and look out of the question for me. Would you include instructions for non bread machine owners like me? I have made a few failures guessing at how to do things so I would really appreciate it! Thanks
    Hi Lisa,
    I don’t own a bread machine either (actually, I do own one, but it lives at someone else’s house). You can definitely make bread machine recipes by hand. Here is a link to our bread machine tips online, where they explain the steps. Look down past the numbered tips. Bread Machine Basics.

    MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline.

    Reply
  14. flourchild

    Like Sue E. Conrad above, I too am loyal to KAF and steer people to it. I just wanted to relay an experience from last November. Four of us gal pals from Cincinnati (we were in our early 20′s then and are now 58-61) decided to choose a location to meet up again since we are so spread out. We decided to rent a row house in Baltimore. While speaking with the owner, she asked what I did and I told her I was a baker. She was delighted and said “Oh good! We have something in common! I work for Gold Medal Flour.” Immediately, without thinking, I said “Oh, I haven’t used that in more than 10 years… I will only use King Arthur Flour” which pretty much ended our conversation in dead air. I told the others what I did so they could prepare in case our beds were short-sheeted or worse… “dusted” with an inferior flour!

    Ah, the Flour Wars… thanks for being one of our champions, Sue! :) – PJH

    Reply
  15. flourchild (carol)

    It’s Carol (I was referring to Sue’s comment) but you are welcome anyway! Regards to Carol Bagley and love The Baking Sheet and this blog! Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  16. Bryan

    This eggplant cannelloni looks and sounds delicious. We generally get a dozen or so eggplant from our gardening neighbor down yonder every summer. This recipe will be the first one on the list once the eggplants start coming our way. The major problem will be getting fontina cheese. Here in the boonies of mid-America some folks think fontina is a new model of Oldsmobile. Guess we’ll have to trek on down to Kansas City, get a supply, and vacuum seal it.

    Well, fontina isn’t a strict necessity – and I’m guessing Oldsmobile isn’t coming out with the 2010 Fontina anytime soon, eh? Try provolone – probably more available. Hey, I hear you guys are planning a meet-up (bakery crawl?) in K.C. – Susan might come out? COOL!!! Keep us informed- PJH

    Reply

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