Cannelloni

Cannelloni ricotta e spinaci (Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni)

In pasta, primi piatti by Frank20 Comments

Incredible as it may seem, after nearly six years of blogging on Italian cooking—my blogiversary is coming up later this month—I realize I’ve never written a post about cannelloni. That’s an incredible omission, since cannelloni is probably the easiest stuffed pasta you can make. You simply roll square sheets of fresh egg pasta around the stuffing of your choice, cover them with a sauce, bake them for about 20 minutes in a hot oven until they’re bubbling not and lightly brown on top, and you’re good to go. Once you’ve mastered the basic technique making cannelloni, you can let you imagination run wild; the possible variations  are endless.

Classic cannelloni make for substantial eating, stuffed as they are with a hearty meat mixture and covered with béchamel (see Notes). In this light vegetarian version, the cannelloni are stuffed with a mixture of ricotta and spinach and topped with a light tomato sauce. It’s a delicious option for the warm weather months.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

For the stuffing:

  • 500g (1 lb) fresh spinach
  • 300g (10 oz) ricotta cheese
  • 50-75g (4-6 oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • A scrape of nutmeg
  • Salt

Directions

Make the tomato sauce following any one of the recipes provided in our “Tomato Sauce 101” post. Personally, I prefer the marinara. Make sure your sauce is well seasoned and don’t skimp on the olive oil—a rich sauce will ensure a moist, velvety dish.

While the tomato sauce is simmering, prepare the stuffing: Rinse the spinach well and drain it, but not too well. Place the spinach in a covered pan and cook it briefly, using just the water that clings to it, just until it wilts. Then drain the spinach, rinse it again, and squeeze out as much water as you can. Mince the spinach finely. Mix the spinach and all the other stuffing ingredients together in a large bowl until they are well blended and set aside. (If making the filling ahead, cover with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge.)

Make a batch of fresh egg pasta following our master recipe. Roll the pasta out very thin—I use the “5” setting on a pasta machine—and cut the pasta into 10-12cm/4-5 inch squares. (Unlike other fresh pasta shapes, there is no need to let the pasta dry before you cut it.)

Cannelloni

Now proceed to parboil the pasta squares for just 15-30 seconds or so. Remove the pasta from the boiling water with a slotted spoon, immediately cool it off in a bowl of tepid water and then transfer the square to a towel and pat dry. Continue this way with all the squares.

Cannelloni-2

As soon as all the squares have been parboiled, proceed to fill them. There are two ways you can do this. The more common way is to take 2-3 spoonfuls of filling and line it up along one side of the square, then roll the pasta around it. A less common method, but one I like better, is to spread the same amount of filling all over the surface of the square, leaving a ‘lip’ of say, 2-3cm/1 inch at one end, then roll the square up, starting at the end opposite the lip. This is nice, in my opinion because all practically of the pasta is in contact with the filling.

At the top, stuffing the cannelloni the usual way. At bottom, "my" way...

At the top, stuffing the cannelloni the usual way. At bottom, “my” way…

Once you’ve filled and rolled all your cannelloni, spread a bit of tomato sauce in the bottom of a baking dish large enough to hold all of them. Now arrange the cannelloni in the dish. Cover with some more tomato sauce—not too much, but enough to cover them completely‚ making sure there is sauce between them and around the sides. Sprinkle with a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Bake the cannelloni in a 200C/400F oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling gently and the cannelloni have slightly browned on top. You can pass the dish under a broiler if you want to brown the cannelloni a bit more on top—that’s a better option than longer baking, which might dry them out. Take the cannelloni out of the oven and let them rest for 15 minutes or so before serving.

Serve with additional tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese for those who want some.

Cannelloni

Notes on Cannelloni

If you’d like a more substantial and creamier dish, you can top these cannelloni with béchamel sauce before topping with dabs of the tomato sauce here and there. And if you really want to go to town, substitute the simple tomato sauce with something meaty, like a sugo di carne or ragù alla napoletana.

As mentioned, the classic cannelloni are made with a meat stuffing, typically ground beef and/or pork, simmered with aromatic vegetables and a splash of wine until they lose their raw color, then bound together with egg and breadcrumbs. Another meat stuffing includes veal roast, minced and mixed with spinach.But these basic recipes are just a starting off point—you can stuff your cannelloni with just about anything you can imagine, whether vegetable, meat or fish.

Cannelloni are not very hard to make, but they become stupid simple if you use store-bought fresh pasta. The result is not nearly as fine as making your own, of course, but none too shabby, either. I’ve even used wonton wrappers (no need to parboil them!) and was pretty happy with the result.

Cannelloni ricotta e spinaci (Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni)

Cannelloni ricotta e spinaci (Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni)

Ingredients

  • A batch of fresh egg pasta made with 3 eggs and 300g/3 cups of flour
  • A batch of marinara or other simple tomato sauce, made with 750g (1-1/2 lbs) tomatoes
  • For the stuffing:
  • 500g (1 lb) fresh spinach
  • 300g (10 oz) ricotta cheese
  • 50-75g (4-6 oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • A scrape of nutmeg
  • Salt

Directions

  1. Make the tomato sauce following any one of the recipes provided in our "Tomato Sauce 101" post. Personally, I prefer the marinara. Make sure your sauce is well seasoned and don't skimp on the olive oil—a rich sauce will ensure a moist, velvety dish.
  2. While the tomato sauce is simmering, prepare the stuffing: Rinse the spinach well and drain it, but not too well. Place the spinach in a covered pan and cook it briefly, using just the water that clings to it, just until it wilts. Then drain the spinach, rinse it again, and squeeze out as much water as you can. Mince the spinach finely. Mix the spinach and all the other stuffing ingredients together in a large bowl until they are well blended and set aside. (If making the filling ahead, cover with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge.)
  3. Make a batch of fresh egg pasta following our master recipe. Roll the pasta out very thin—I use the "5" setting on a pasta machine—and cut the pasta into 10-12cm/4-5 inch squares. (Unlike other fresh pasta shapes, there is no need to let the pasta dry before you cut it.)
  4. Now proceed the parboil the pasta squares for just 15-30 seconds or so. Remove the pasta from the boiling water with a slotted spoon, immediately cool it off in a bowl of tepid water and then transfer the square to a towel and pat dry. Continue this way with all the squares.
  5. As soon as all the squares have been parboiled, proceed to fill them. There are two ways you can do this. The more common way is to take 2-3 spoonfuls of filling and line it up along one side of the square, then roll the pasta around it. A less common method, but one I like better, is to spread the same amount of filling all over the square, leaving a 'lip' of say, 2-3cm/1 inch at one end, then roll the square up, starting at the end opposite the lip. This is nice, in my opinion because all of the pasta is in contact with the filling.
  6. Once you've filled and rolled all your cannelloni, spread a bit of tomato sauce in the bottom of a baking dish large enough to hold all of them. Now arrange the cannelloni in the dish. Cover with some more tomato sauce—not too much, but enough to cover them completely‚ making sure there is sauce between them and around the sides. Sprinkle with a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
  7. Bake the cannelloni in a 200C/400F oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling gently and the cannelloni have slightly browned on top. Take the cannelloni out of the oven and let them rest for 15 minutes or so before serving.
  8. Serve with additional tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese for those who want some.
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Comments

  1. Pingback: Cannelloni ricotta e spinaci – Memorie di Angelina | webindex24.ch – News aus dem Web

  2. Thanks for this recipe. I’ve often wondered about the Italian-American “Manicotti;” I’ve encountered Cannelloni several times in Italy, but never Manicotti, per se. I suppose the former morphed into the latter once they crossed the Pond! Saluti da New Jersey….

    1. Good question! It’s one I haven’t been able to answer yet. My guess is that’s an old-fashioned or local name that’s fallen out of use in Italy, while it has been preserved by the descendants of Italian immigrants—but that’s just a guess.

  3. I do love just using the squares – never have done that. Grand idea! My favorite filling in the world is indeed spinach and ricotta. My crystal balls says that this meal will make my family very happy in the near future.

  4. As often happens, happily enough, I’ll be thinking, “Gee, I’d really like a recipe for such and such” – and, before I know it, one of my fellow bloggers comes up with just the recipe I was looking for. And so it is with your excellent Cannelloni recipe. I can’t wait to make it!!! ; o )

  5. Pingback: Cannelloni ricotta e spinaci - Spinach and Rico...

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  7. top dish! equally nice using crespelle of course.
    Can u buy good ricotta in the US?
    I know this brand called Salvatore Brooklyn (on You Tube): looks good,but it is not ricotta of course – it is a fresh cheese made with lemon juice.
    I Am not a stickler for traditions at all costs, but I get pretty annoyed when I see all these on line recipes for “home made ricotta”/which in fact is fresh cheese: I mean, why calling it ricotta? why not “fresh cheese”? I find it is so misleading… I mean: I use these home made ricotta/style fresh cheese myself and very often: it is a delicious thing, but the texture is really very different… not better/worse…just different.
    Here in the uk good real ricotta is virtually non existent. The supermarket one is not nasty (it is made with whey and nothing else)…. it is just tasteless, a pale imitation of the real thing…
    … so when I do not feel lazy and I want a pure milky flavour I too make the aforementioned fresh cheese… the recipe from the calabrian book by rosetta costantino is pretty good (and the nancy silverston/mozza’ s recipe too)….hope u have better produce in the us… (odd: english milk and cheese and cream are fantastic, but no one has thought to start producing ricotta/the only uk producer or buffalo ricotta makes a poor product that goes on sale at 20 uk pounds/sterlings per kg!! / absurd)
    ciao a tutti
    stefano

    1. Author

      You know, I’ve always found the ricotta here quite acceptable, but whether it’s real ricotta… ? I’d defer to those who are more expert. I suspect most are more of a fresh cheese, just like all those online recipes, but they work well in a recipe like this one.

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  9. Cannelloni is without a doubt my favorite stuffed noodle entree. Growing up if it wasn’t that, Id have spaghetti with meat sauce. Your recipe sounds perfect and your cannelloni is fit for a king. Nice recipe!

  10. li conosco come cannelloni alla fiorentina, non so perchè vengano chiamati così ma di certo sono deliziosi ! Buon weekend Frank !

  11. This has to be my favorite oven- baked pasta Frank. And I have used store bought pasta to great success. Your recipe is just like I make itt.

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