Stuffed lasagne with forest mushroom and truffle, anybody? (Eating Out With IANS)

By V. Jagannathan, IANS
Monday, September 27, 2010

CHENNAI - A famous Garfield quote goes, “I never met a Lasagna I didn’t like!” And you’ll have all the reason to agree with the incorrigible cat after indulging in the sinful pleasures of lasagne stuffed with exotic fillings at the Rhapsody restaurant here.

“We decided to offer lots of choices in pastas to our guests by showcasing eight to ten choices of fillings with lots of chefs’ creativity going into it,” executive chef Suresh Thampy tells IANS on the idea behind the 13-day Italian Cannelloni and Lasagna festival at Rhapsody in Courtyard Marriott hotel here.

Thampy and his deputy Dev are offering guests a spread of five varieties of cannelloni and six variants of lasagne, divided almost equally between vegetarian and non-vegetarian varieties.

Cannelloni are tubelar pieces of pasta with fillings. Some of the vegetarian varieties of cannelloni include - cipolle caramellate con zucchini e zucca - cannelloni stuffed with caramelized onion, zucchini and pumpkin.

But what is remarkable is that some exotic ingredients used in the fillings cost a bomb, like the imported wild grown mushrooms.

“The feather light mushrooms are imported forest mushrooms and really costs a tonne. The morels variety costs Rs.18,000 per kg while the porcinni costs around Rs.3,600 per kg,” Thampy says.

He presents a sample - Profumo di bosco al tartufo - a lasagna made of pasta layered with forest mushrooms and scented with truffle - a sureshot treat for the senses.

“These mushrooms harvested from the wild gives a nice smell,” he says. Even when eaten individually, each mushroom variety tastes distinct.

“For this festival, apart from mushrooms we also used imported cheese, cold cuts olives, olive oil, truffle oil and other items,” he adds.

For those watching their weight, there’s a non-cheese option in misto di mare allo zafferana - saffron pasta layered with mix of sea food - a recipe surely scripted in heaven.

“The pasta dough is made with saffron. The dish goes well with white wine and champagne,” saya Thampy while serving the dish.

The ever-smiling Dev brings a portion of lasagna layered with roasted chicken, spinach and walnut - a rich compilation with each bite dripping of creamy cheese and satiating the taste buds.

While biting into the exquisite dish, the talk veers towards the manner in which the hotel is managing inflation. “The chain opted for centralised sourcing to derive economies of scale. Similarly, we also reduced vendors and assured volumes to suppliers,” he answers.

He recommends lasagna tradicionale bolognese - a pasta layered with grounded beef, red wine, tomato, béchamel and herbs. It is followed by baulletti di spinaci e ricotta - spinach flavoured crepes stuffed with ricotta cheese.

The mouthwatering green ensemble melts down the throat in a jiffy.

Making a distinction between cannelloni and lasagna, Thampy says: “Cannelloni are tubular in shape with stuffing while lasagne are layered ones. The former has more stuffing and the latter has more pasta.”

When asked about the foreign chefs, he says: “Not many star hotels here have them. Expat chefs are mostly hired as executive chefs. Though dishes and chefs have become global, some hotels prefer an expat chef to provide international guests some comfort level.”

Wrapping off, Thampy presents some more non-vegetarian options. The mint flavoured cannelloni stuffed with fresh squids, the cannelloni stuffed with lamb ragout and the one stuffed with sea crab and fresh tomato - they all look the part but for the exhausted appetite, can’t be accommodated.

A cannelloni and lasagna dinner for two would cost around Rs.1,200. The festival is on till Sep 30.

As Federico Fellini said: “Life is a combination of magic and pasta!”

(V. Jagannathan can be contacted at

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