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Friday, 18 June 2010

Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni

Here's another traditional Italian recipe. And I know that every Italian will tell you this, but...this version is unique because it has the special filling that my nonna (granny) uses, and inherited from her mother. This whole thing is a tad cliché, I admit it.  But the recipe honestly isn't! Read more to find out the family secret...
INGREDIENTS (6 people)
  • 500 gr spinach
  • 500 gr ricotta
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 500 ml of bechamél sauce (see recipe here. You'll need 500 ml of milk, 50 gr of butter and 50 gr of plain flour)
  • 1 bottle of passata
  • 250 gr of dried cannelloni tubes
  • 1 free range egg
  • Fresh basil
  • 1 small red onion
  • Salt & pepper
Wash your spinach and put them in a pan without draining them. Turn the heat up (medium) and let the spinach wilt. Drain and when they are cool enough to handle, squeeze out all the excess water (the best way is to use your hands for this) and finally chop them up in small pieces. Put them in a bowl and mix them to the ricotta and Parmesan cheese. Now, my nonna's secret: add the zest of one orange and one lemon to the filling mix. The flavour this little touch gives to the dish is incredible! Adjust the seasoning and when you are satisfied with it, add the egg to the mixture, and let it rest while you get on with the next steps.
Make a tomato sauce by chopping finely the red onion, sweating it in a little olive oil, then adding the passata and the basil. Let it simmer at medium heat and fish out the basil at the end. Make 500 ml of bechamél sauce by following the recipe here.
Spoon some bechamél and some tomato sauce on the bottom of a large baking tray, spreading them a little to cover its surface. Stuff the cannelloni tubes with the spinach and ricotta mix, using a teaspoon. Lay the cannelloni next to each other in the tray, and finally cover them with the rest of the bechamél and tomato sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan and bake for 30/40 minutes at 180°C. You can assemble the cannelloni in advance, and bake them just before your guests arrive, which makes it a brilliant dish for a dinner party. 


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