CANNELLONI WITH SPINACH AND RICOTTA
Cannelloni made with fresh crepes are a lighter alternative to the traditional pasta (so you can eat more!). These are packed full of ricotta, spinach and plenty of parmesan then served with a rich tomato sauce and just the right amount of Bechamel.
400g fresh ricotta
A small portion of fresh parsley (chopped finely)
A small portion of fresh Italian basil
2 bottles of Italian passata (for tomato sauce)
3 thick slices of provolone cheese cut into small cubes
¼ onion (chopped finely)
2 branches of celery
3 cubes of frozen spinach or 150g (cooked and strained, making sure there is no water left inside)
2 carrots peeled and cut in half
A handful of dry mixed herbs
A pinch of cinnamon
Two pinches of rock salt
Extra virgin Olive Oil
1 glass of water
1 x medium saucepan
1 x medium sized mixing bowl
1 x fork
1 x table spoon
1 x large serving spoon
1 x pyrex or Bessemer tray (whichever you prefer)
STEP ONE – TOMATO SAUCE
1. Let’s start with the sauce. Get a medium size saucepan and put it onto the stove at a medium heat, adding 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and the finely chopped onions.
2. Stir regularly until they brown (normally this takes a couple of minutes).
3. Now add the passata and stir it in with the onions.
TIP: It’s always good to make a little extra and if you have any left over, you can keep this in the freezer until you wish to use it again, remembering you can add other vegetables and ingredients later as this is just a basic sauce.
4. It’s now time to help strengthen the flavour of your sauce by adding fresh herbs and vegetables.
5. First, add parsley and basil, then add the carrots.
6. Now, get your two branches of celery and break off the heads. Then break the celery in half using your hands if you like, and put them into your sauce as well.
7. It is important that you add the celery so don’t leave it out. The flavour it adds to your pasta sauce cannot be replaced!
8. Add 2 ½ pinches of rock salt for added flavour, and stir.
9. My secret ingredient is now the dried mixed herbs. Add 2 pinches to the sauce and continue to stir. The smell will be mouth-watering!
10. Lastly, add a glass of water to the sauce and stir it once again.
11. The sauce needs to simmer on a medium high heat for around 40 minutes with the lid on. Remember to check on and stir the sauce every 5-8 minutes so the tomato does not stick to the bottom.
STEP TWO – THE FILLING
1. Put the ricotta into a mixing bowl and break it down with a fork.
2. Add your spinach to the ricotta filling, making sure it is strained so well that there is not even a tiny bit of water left (as this can completely ruin your dish!).
3. Using the fork once again, mix your spinach through, pressing down until you see bits of green all throughout the ricotta.
4. Sprinkle two pinches of salt into the ricotta and mix once again.
3. Add a pinch of cinnamon (I know this sounds crazy, but it is the perfect combination with ricotta).
4. Grate some fresh parmesan on top to your liking and mix it in also
5. Now, for the egg. Crack it open and drop it in. Beat the egg into the mixture and make sure you press down with a fork so that it disappears but helps to bind all the ingredients together.
STEP THREE – PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER!
1. Remove the sauce from the stove as it should now be ready.
2. Take the lid off and take in the wonderful smell! You should have a tiny taste test but make sure you cool it down first- it is simply devine!
3. Preheat your oven at 180degrees.
4. Now, take one crepe, and place it in the middle of your tray. Get a spoonful of ricotta mixture and put it on one side of the crepe, not right on the edge, just off centre.
5. Don’t put too much you won’t be able to close it properly..!
6. Begin to roll the crepe carefully and slowly, then fold in the edges and finish rolling it.
7. Spread a small portion of béchamel sauce on the bottom of the tray and place the rolled crepe on top.
8. Repeat this process, placing several cannelloni onto one tray, careful not to squash them, but they can sit quite close together if you plan on making a fair few.
9. Then, get a nice scoop of fresh sauce and slowly pour it over the top of each rolled crepe. Don’t drown them or they will end up soggy.
10. Sprinkle a generous amount of the cubes of provolone over the top and finally, add some freshly grated parmesan which will melt first in the oven, and then in your mouth!
11. You may also add another layer of béchamel sauce on top of each cannelloni for added flavour.
12. These can then go in the oven for around 10-15 minutes at 180 degrees.
HOW TO SERVE
1. Remove the crepes from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.
2. Using a serving spatula, scope up the crepes cannelloni, one at a time careful not to break them and place them gently side by side on to a flat white serving plate.
3. If you want an added touch, grate a small amount of fresh parmesan on top of the cannelloni and place a fresh basil leaf on the side for a bit of colour.
E ora si mangia, Vincenzo’s Plate…Enjoy!