Bison and Mushroom Cannelloni with Bechamel Sauce

January 31, 2017  •  Pasta & Pizza, Sauces

Each year I join a group of people to bid on Colorado raised bison at the National Western Stock Show’s Gold Trophy bison sale. It starts with auctioning off the animals that were already judged on their quality – everything from overall hanging weight to fat color, marbling, and tender score – and our group buys several animals that we split into shares of about 50 pounds of bison meat, enough for about 1 dinner of bison a week during the year. Often these animals are raised by kids in a 4H program and the money goes towards their college savings, so it feels good supporting them.My friend Andy who works for Slow Food on a national level organizes the effort, along with a bison dinner to celebrate afterwards. This year’s dinner started with bison tongue mini reuben and empanadas, both savory and surprising.The main course included Asian spiced bison short ribs with a celery root puree and Asian sesame slaw.My contribution were these decadent bison and mushroom cannelloni baked in béchamel sauce.If you have vegetarians in the group like I did, cook the mushrooms and onions first in the pan so that you can pull some out for stuffing some of the cannelloni without the bison meat, then cook the bison in the same pan. I split all of the ingredients, 1/3 for the vegetarian version, and 2/3 for the bison version, and ended up with about 10 vegetarian ones and 20 meat filled ones.Cook the pasta tubes for 3 minutes less than the package says and let them cool on a nonstick liner or parchment paper before you stuff them.Our dessert even had bison in it – a rustic apple cake with caramel sauce that used bison stock as a base. Believe it or not, it was delicious!

Bison and Mushroom Cannelloni with Bechamel Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 15 (2 cannelloni each)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1½ pounds crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound ground bison (or beef)
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 30 cannelloni pasta tubes, cooked very al dente
Bechamel Sauce
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup grate Parmigiano Reggiani cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Grated nutmeg, to taste
  • ½ cup white wine
  1. Heat the olive oil and butter together in a large skillet over medium high heat; add the mushrooms and cook until they begin to wilt and release their water. Add the onions and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until they are nicely caramelized. Add the garlic and cook for one minute, then add the thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Remove the mushroom mixture to a food processor and pulse a few times to roughly chop the mixture making it easier to stuff into the cannelloni tubes. Cook the bison in the same pan until well browned and then combine with the mushroom mixture in a large bowl.
  3. Add the ricotta, eggs, parsley, and cheese and mix well. Place spoonfuls of the mixture into a medium sized zippered plastic bag and cut off a corner to pipe the filling into the cannelloni tubes. Place on a nonstick liner or parchment paper while you make the sauce.
  4. Melt the butter together with the olive oil and flour over medium high heat and cook for a few minutes to remove the raw flour taste. Slowly whisk in the milk a little at a time and then add the cheese; continue stirring until completely thickened. Remove from the heat, add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste, then stir in the wine to thin the sauce a bit.
  5. Spread a think layer of sauce on the bottom of a baking pan large enough to hold the cannelloni, then line up the stuffed cannelloni in the pan. Pour the remaining sauce over the cannelloni, making sure they are all evenly covered. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees. Remove foil and place under the broiler for a couple of minutes to brown the top a bit before serving.


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