top of page
  • Writer's pictureChef Dylan

SPINACH AND RICOTTA CANNELLONI



My creamy ricotta and wilted spinach, wrapped in fresh pasta, swimming in a rich tomato sauce and generously topped with golden baked mozzarella and parmesan cheese, ticks all the boxes for a quick weeknight whip up.

This classic dish is not just for vegetarians, and is an easy way to get the kids to eat some veg. This recipe also uses fresh lasagna sheets that you roll up to speed up the process, which means this can be assembled in less than 20 minutes. Serve it with a tomato and avocado salad and some garlic bread to get the whole family excited.


Did you know? Cannelloni in Italian translates to ‘large reeds’. The origin of Cannelloni is relatively new and the version we know today dates back to around 1907, when Nicola Federico, a well-known chef from Naples, while working at the La Favoria, a posh restaurant in Sorrento, Italy, started to play around with a new way to present a stuffed entrée. Instead of using a traditional thin pancake or crepe, his idea was to use thin lasagna sheets, and thus invented this iconic dish.


Chef Dylan tip: 1. If you can’t find fresh pasta sheets you can par-cook dried pasta sheets; just make sure you cool them down and completely dry them which will make them easier to roll. 2. When rolling the pasta, leave a 2cm gap at the end so the filling doesn’t fall out when you pick them up. 3. Don’t over fill them and make the log too big. 4. You want the spinach just wilted not completely mushy when wilting in the microwave.


Florence Italy 2023

I reach down to press the upside-down triangle button to summon the tiny three person elevator. I’m here with my wife and father-in-law, staying in an Airbnb penthouse apartment in the centre of Florence with breathtaking views across the rooftops towards the Duomo. As I wait, I admire the elegant art deco interior design, with its Italian marble floors, artistic angular use of golden triangles and plush, handcrafted seats. I hear the door close, and my companions arrive just as the bell rings, signalling the arrival of the lift. As we descend, I turn to Dad: “I’m super impressed that you managed to walk 15 kilometres today! My legs are tired and I’m not 79 years old” I say, with a bit of tongue in cheek. “Maybe that has more to do with the amount of Chianti and cannelloni pasta you ate for lunch!” he quips whilst poking my belly playfully, causing me to belly laugh. The doors open and we file out into the grand foyer, head down a few stairs and exit through a set of giant

glass doors.


The cold Florentine winter air sends a shiver down my spine, and I pull up my hood. “The good news is we won’t be walking far tonight – the restaurant is only 200 metres down the road” I say. “And the reviews on Google are outstanding”. As we arrive we see a young smartly dressed couple having the last few puffs of their cigarettes. “Buona sera” says the ruggedly handsome young man, and gestures politely for us to enter before them into the well-lit restaurant. We climb a small set of marble stairs and are greeted by the maître d’. “Buona sera. Avete una prenotazione?” he says. By the confused look on my face, he quickly shifts to perfect English: “Good evening sir, do you have a reservation? “I’m afraid not” I reply. He furrows his brow and looks down and runs his finger down his large old-school reservation book. Raising his head, he says


“I can squeeze you in, but you may have to leave in two hours okay?” “Grazie signore, two hours is plenty of time for us” jumps in Dad. “Va bene, follow me please” as we follow, we pass the pizza station where the chef is expertly shaping a pizza. Noticing me looking, he flings the pizza dough into the air for a bit of theatre. “This is why I love Italy.” says Dad, “It’s hard to compare their hospitality and cuisine. We‘ve so many happy memories of our family holidays to Italy, I’m so happy to be here with you two” Dad continues. “Now, where is the wine list?”.


PREP TIME: 20mins

COOK TIME: 30mins SERVES 6-8


INGREDIENTS

  • 2 x 400g tinned chopped tomato

  • 2 tbs tomato paste

  • 1/2 medium onion, diced

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 3 tbs GAUCHO

  • 8 fresh lasagna sheets cut in half

  • 500g ricotta cheese

  • 1 tsp cracked pepper

  • 1 tbp salt

  • 1/2 cup shaved parmesan

  • 10 basil leaves roughly torn up

  • 240g baby spinach leaves

  • Topping

  • 250 g grated pizza cheese mix


METHOD

  1. Place spinach in a large microwave-proof bowl and wilt in microwave for 1 or 2 mins, depending on the strength of your microwave. Transfer the spinach to a plate and chill in the fridge while you make the sauce.

  2. Heat a medium sized fry pan and fry the onion on medium high heat stirring for 2 mins.

  3. Add garlic and GAUCHO and cook for 1 min.

  4. Add tomato paste and cook stirring for 1 min.

  5. Add chopped tomato bring to a simmer and turn down low.

  6. Remove the spinach from the fridge and place into a large mixing bowl with the ricotta, basil, salt, pepper and parmesan and gently mix to combine.

  7. Lightly grease a 20cm x 28cm x 4cm-high ovenproof dish.

  8. Pour in roughly half the tomato sauce and spread evenly to cover the base.

  9. Place 1/4 cup of ricotta mix along the base of a lasagna sheet then roll up and line it up in the baking dish. Repeat until all the ricotta mix is used.

  10. Spoon on the remaining tomato sauce on the top to coat.

  11. Cover with the pizza cheese and bake for about 30 mins or until golden and bubbling.

TO SERVE


Serve with rustic bread or a garden salad.





Comments


bottom of page