I was going to start this off with “a few years ago,” but I did the math – and it was FIVE years ago. Anywho. Five years ago, my dad and I went to Florida over my high school winter break. While there, besides tasting “Alligator Bites,” we stumbled upon a restaurant called Romano’s Macaroni Grille, a restaurant I think we may have heard of from one of my dad’s coworkers, but I can’t remember details back that far. I ended up ordering the chicken cannelloni and was blown. away. “Hand-rolled pasta filled with roasted chicken, fresh spinach and melted cheese, then baked in an Asiago cream sauce. Topped with imported tomato sauce.” .. how can you not devour it?! We asked about any locations they had up north and there’s 2 in Massachusetts, but they’re each about an hour from here — so there was only one real thing to do recently when I started craving just that – find a copycat recipe and make it myself.
Matt and I loved it, though next time I’m not sure I would mix the two sauces together because as I remember the dish in the restaurant, it was an asiago sauce with a small topping of tomato sauce on top of the actual pasta, as opposed to a complete mix of the sauces. Regardless, the dish was gone a day or two later (it makes a lot!) and I’d definitely make it again. It’s relatively easy, it’s just really about timing the cooking of the chicken with the cooking of the lasagna noodles – so the chicken has a little time to cool and the lasagna noodles don’t sit too long and stick together. Pictures & recipe….
8 ounces chicken breast (about 2), cooked thoroughly
1 ounce fresh spinach, chopped
1 ounce sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
16 ounces ricotta cheese
3 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 teaspoon table-ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
12 lasagna pasta sheets, approximate size of 5 x 6 inches
16 ounces Asiago cream sauce or your favorite Alfredo sauce
16 ounces tomato sauce
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
Once the chicken breast has been cooked thoroughly, allow it to cool to an internal temperature of 45 degrees F.
Dice the cooled chicken breast into 1/2-inch pieces and place into a large mixing bowl. Add spinach, tomatoes, ricotta, mozzarella, pepper and salt, and mix thoroughly.
Arrange precooked pasta sheets on a cutting board and place two or three rounded tablespoons of filling mixture down the center of each pasta sheet and carefully roll pasta around filling in a cigar fashion. Place the rolled cannelloni, side by side, into an ovenproof shallow baking dish. Place Asiago sauce (or Alfredo sauce) and tomato sauce in bowl and mix until well incorporated. Pour sauce over cannelloni covering completely. Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over top of sauce. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 20 minutes.
Remove foil and continue to bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until an internal temperature of 165 degrees F is reached. Remove from oven and serve family style or on individual plates garnished with fresh diced tomatoes, and basil or Italian parsley.