Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

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Mmmmm………… Not good if you’re on a diet!

I love pasta. Adore it! And I love a simple tomato sauce with pasta and little else.

However, I also adore cheese. So this dish is a particular favourite of mine – pasta, tomato sauce and three different cheeses! (Homer Simpson drool here). I recently made a big dish of this and froze most of it for handy lunches. I have tried a few different recipes from Jamie, Delia and other websites. Some use beaten egg in the filling but I find this makes it a bit too rich for my liking. I think next time I might add 50g of mild blue cheese to the filling just for some variety.

Tomato Sauce

  • Splash olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Bunch of basil
  • 2 x 400g tins good quality plum tomatoes
  • Celery salt & pepper (If you don’t have celery salt use half a stick of celery very finely diced and cook for a few mins before adding the tomatoes)
  • Pinch sugar

Bechamel Sauce

  • 600ml full fat milk
  • 30g butter
  • 30g plain flour
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • Salt & pepper
  • 30g freshly grated parmesan

Cannelloni and Filling

  • Olive oil
  • 200g fresh spinach (other recipes use a lot more spinach, this is enough for my liking)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 500g ricotta cheese
  • 125g mozzarella cheese
  • 25g freshly grated parmesan
  • 16-20 cannelloni tubes (depending on how large they are and how much filling you have left. I used 18.)

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan/gas 4
  • Start by making the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil over a medium heat in a large saucepan, the bigger saucepan makes it easier to use a hand blender later if you want a smoother consistency in your tomato sauce. Crush the clove of garlic and add to the oil, be careful as garlic burns very quickly and burnt garlic is not a good flavour! Add the chopped stalks of the basil and after a minute add the tinned tomatoes.
  • Once the tomatoes have started to boil reduce the heat, add the celery salt, pepper and sugar and simmer for at least 10-15 mins. You can then blitz with a hand blender if you wish. Add the roughly torn leaves of the basil.
  • While the sauce is simmering prepare the spinach. Heat the oil in a wide saucepan; you’ll need a wide pan to fit all the spinach. Again crush the garlic and add to the oil along with the oregano and nutmeg. Then put all the spinach in the pan and toss until it has completely wilted down, it takes about 5 mins. Remove the spinach from the pan and put into a bowl to cool down.
  • Next prepare your bechamel sauce. Use a heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. Put the milk, flour and butter into the saucepan and bring to a gentle boil, stirring all the time. When it starts to boil, add the bay leaf and reduce to a low heat and simmer for 10 mins until it has thickened. You will need to whisk to avoid lumps. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the parmesan. Don’t use too much salt as the parmesan is quite salty. Just before you use it remove the bay leaf. If you want to make this in advance cover the surface of the sauce with clingfilm to stop a skin forming.
  • Next prepare the filling for the cannelloni. Squeeze all of the excess water out of the wilted spinach. Then finely chop the spinach. Stir the ricotta in a bowl to soften it. Tear up the mozzarella ball and add to the ricotta along with the spinach and parmesan.
  • Taste the filling to see if it needs seasoning but remember the bechamel and tomato sauces will be well seasoned. Put the filling into an icing bag, if you don’t have one you can use a sandwich bag and cut off the corner. Don’t make the hole too big as it will make filling the tubes quite messy.
  • Lightly grease an oven dish that will hold all the cannelloni tubes in one layer. Put most of the tomato sauce on the bottom. Fill each tube with the filling and place into the oven dish. When all the tubes are filled and placed in the dish, cover with the bechamel sauce. Then pour over the remaining tomato sauce.
  • Cook for 20-25 mins until the sauce is bubbling and check the pasta is cooked with a knife. Serve with some rocket leaves drizzled with balsamic glaze. Mop up leftover sauce with good white bread.

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After taking this pic I spooned more tomato sauce from the oven dish over this.

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