Cannelloni – Spinach, mixed veg and ricotta cheese Cannelloni with tomato and béchamel sauce
As some of you already know, I run informal but hands on cookery lessons in my home. It’s a great way of having fun and making new friends. Well the tables were turned on me this week as one of my Italian students, Linda, taught me her recipe for making cannelloni which is a lot different to mine. We had great fun making this dish as we experimented a bit with herbs and spices and made the cannelloni adding some of the Indian spices such as nutmeg, cumin and coriander to the basic recipe. We came up with a perfect taste by blending the Italian and Indian spices. This is an Italian and Indian spiced fusion meal in one.
Ingredients for 4 -6 people:
4 cups of fresh or frozen spinach
2 cups of fresh or any mixed vegetables (I used frozen carrots, beans, peas, sweetcorn)
3-4 cloves of freshly pressed Garlic
2-3 tablespoons of oil
I cup Ricotta Cheese
2 teaspoons salt (one for the filling and one for adding to the water when you precook the cannelloni)
½ teaspoon of chilly powder
½ teaspoon of cumin powder
½ teaspoon of turmeric
16 Cannelloni Tubes
2-3 cups grated Cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2-3 green chillies (optional) We added one of my frozen cubes of green chillies
For the red sauce:
4 cups pasata
2-3 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dried Basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2-3 cloves of freshly pressed garlic
1 large red onion
For the béchamel sauce
1/3 cup plain white flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3½ cups milk at room temperature
2 tablespoon of butter
First prepare the filling:
1. Heat the oil and add in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
2. Add in the chopped spinach, mixed vegetable, plus the spices – salt, chilly powder, cumin powder and turmeric.
3. Cover and allow to cook for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
4. Once cooked, blend all the vegetables using a potato masher
5. Allow the mixture to cool.
Now prepare the Red sauce:
6. Heat the Olive oil and when hot – add the pressed garlic to it.
7. Add the pasata and the salt, pepper and dried basil to it.
8. Allow it to simmer for 10-15 minutes.
9. In the meantime grate the onions really small – use a mandoline grater if you have one.
10. Allow the pasata to cool and add the onions to the red sauce now.
Now prepare the béchamel sauce:
11. Heat the butter until it melts.
12. Now make the roux (rue) by adding the plain flour to the melted butter. Keep stirring the mixture constantly for about 5 minutes over low heat. The flour needs to be cooked well to get a good sauce.
13. Add in the milk (which should be at room temperature) slowly, turn the heat to medium and continue to stir the sauce until it begins to thicken. Now add in the nutmeg.
14. Your béchamel sauce is ready so switch off the heat.
Now pre cook the cannelloni:
My student suggested that I precook any lasagna and cannelloni, even if the package says that “no pre cooking required”. In her experience when she had not precooked them, they had been a bit al dente and ruined the taste of the dish. And who was I to disagree with an Italian who knows her pasta inside out?
15. Put 6-7 cups of water to boil in a saucepan.
16. Add a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of oil to the water.
17. Once the water boils, cook the cannelloni for 2-3 minutes – it’s just enough to soften it.
18. Remove the cooked cannelloni using chop sticks or something similar. I used a thin rolling pin!!
Now finish preparing the filling which will be cooler.
19. Mix the ricotta cheese to the cooked vegetables and mix well. Now your stuffing is ready to be filled into the cannelloni.
20. Using the back of a tablespoon or a very small teaspoon, scoop the mixture and stuff all the cannelloni tubes. (you can also use a piping bag if you wish)
21. Layer an oven proof dish with the red sauce. I decided to separate my mixture into two oven proof dishes.
22. Place your filled cannelloni shells on the red sauce next to each other.
23. If you have any filling left, mix it with the red sauce and pour it over the cannelloni tubes.
24. Sprinkle the dry oregano on the red sauce.
25. Cover the Red sauce with the béchamel sauce.
26. Sprinkle the grated Cheddar cheese on top of the béchamel sauce.(sorry no picture as I forgot to take one!! by now we were giggling like school kids)
27. Cover the dish with aluminium foil and cook it in the oven at 180 Degrees C for 15-20 minutes depending on the size of your oven.
28. After 20 minutes – remove the foil and cook for 2 minutes to allow the cheese to brown slightly.
29. Remove the cannelloni and allow to cool for 10-12 minutes before serving with either roast potatoes or salad.
30. Thanks to my student- Linda – the cannelloni was absolutely delicious.