I loooooove making cannelloni! It is my second favorite dish to prepare…my first is risotto. I know I haven’t shared any risotto recipes yet but I’ll get there. Sunday I made stuffed cannelloni. The reason I love making oven baked pasta dishes is that I can make everything ahead of time, clean the kitchen and relax with a glass of wine…or two…while I’m at the dinner table and not have to worry about the mountain of pots and pans that I have in the sink…
So this Sunday I made Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni, for any vegetarian readers, it was superb. Some people boil the cannelloni before baking but I do not. The key is to make a more dilute sauce so that they are able to cook thoroughly.
Begin by wilting your spinach in two tablespoons of butter if using fresh spinach. If using frozen spinach cook according to package directions and make sure to strain well. I used one 500 gram bag of fresh spinach and added it to the pan one hand full at a time. It’s funny because 500 grams of fresh spinach seems like a huge bag but once cooked it wilts down to a very small amount…I would say about one and a half cups. Once the spinach is cooked let it cool.
In a large bowl mix the 250 grams of ricotta, spinach, a dash of salt and pepper, a hint of nutmeg and a tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese. Taste it at this point before adding the egg so you can fix the salt and pepper to taste…or add some more parmesan :-). Once the taste is to your liking, add one egg and mix well. The egg is necessary because it will help the filling stick to the cannelloni.
In a pot add a tablespoon of olive oil and the small chopped onion and cook until the onion becomes translucent. Add one can of tomato sauce, 2 fresh basil leaves and a pinch of salt. After adding the sauce from the bottle fill half of the same bottle with water to remove the the sauce from the sides and add to the pot diluting the sauce. Cook on low heat for about 20 minutes stirring often.
Preheat the oven to about 200°c and coat the bottom of the baking pan with some of the sauce. Now you are ready to stuff the cannelloni. You can use a pastry bag or help yourself with a teaspoon. They don’t have to be perfect just make sure to fill each one well.
Add them to the baking dish until you have covered the entire surface. Once you have them all lined up add some mozzarella cheese cut into pieces over the cannelloni. Again, this does not have to be perfect and you don’t need a lot of mozzarella cheese.
After adding the mozzarella, sprinkle with parmesan and cover everything with the remaining tomato sauce. Add some more parmesan on top of the sauce and bake for 40 – 45 minutes.
Serve warm with a delicious glass of red wine :-)