Cannelloni with spinach and ricotta cheese….one creamy dream. I ate them a few times in Italy, but the recipe I share with you is a fusion of basic spinach-ricotta Cannelloni and some little but ohlala very important Argentinian secrets, brought to me by Fernando through his mother Silvina. Also for this recipe I will give you lots of freedom for your own decisions, as there are many little changes you can make within the preparation.
I prepared this a lot of times, they are great for parties and every occasion of getting together, as you make one whole oven bake, that should serve a few mouths, and as they are all vegetarian. And to all meat lovers out there: I promise, you won’t miss meat in there! Promise!
First thing to decide, my friends, is the ‘pasta’. I have 2 variations for the Cannelloni. If it has to be quickly, take the ones from the packet, the are usually about 25 in one, which will be enough. I really like them, they taste perfectly great, you just need to be careful in having your bake moist enough, so they will get nice and soft during the baking procedure!
1 l milk
500 g flour
A good pinch of salt
Prepare your pancake dough and leave it alone for about an hour. Then make your pancakes first, so you can let them cool down until your mixture is ready, easier for your hands when you have to roll them up!
Second possibility is one that will make your bake look like a painting and your guests will just be like wohaa, how did you dooo that? This is how Silvina always makes them. The secret is pancakes! You prepare a whole lot of pancakes, very thin ones though, more Crèpe like, and instead of filling the Cannelloni, you spread your mixture over your pancake and roll it up – now you can imagine it looking so beautifully when cut on your plate!
For the filling:
Heat up some olive oil in a pan, add 2 to 3 garlic gloves, one finely chopped onion and some spices (for example oregano, nutmeg, or basil, or all!) to it. Roast a litle, then add your washed spinach, turning it until it goes smooth, you can also use frozen spinach, I did that before but I cannot wait to try it out with the fresh one. For one bake you can use about 300g of spinach. Try to fry your spinach until dry, switching it to a bowl afterwards adding lots of nice and fresh ricotta cheese and one egg. Taste and decide what spices you want to add, go for salt, pepper, more nutmeg if you like it, and whatever else you think would taste good. Oh yes, and another variation, if you like the idea, you can add about 50g of pine nuts to it, I really like the little crunch and got good responses.
Before spreading it on your pancakes or filling your Cannelloni, prepare another important part: The tomato sauce! This doesn’t sound so important, but will actually add a major change in taste. So just heat up your pan again and go for a basic tomato sauce, like my favourite one over here. Basically you can just go for two cans of chopped tomatoes (good quality please!), basil, garlic, salt, pepper and sugar. I spread my sauce on top of the Cannelloni, if I use the hard ones from the packet I spread some cream first, to keep them a bit wet so they will for sure be soft later. If you want to go for something less fatty just prepare more tomato sauce and spread it on the bottom of your casserole and again on top of your Cannelloni.
Nearly done here, one last thing missing to crown it. To finish up, you can decide between preparing a real bechamel sauce, a ‘healthier’ one, or just using finely chopped mozzarella cheese. If you go with a white sauce, and just cream it onto your tomato sauce in a lose and a bit twisty way, your Cannelloni will look like a piece of art when coming out of the oven. I guess a few pieces of mozzarella will not to a lot of harm ;).
I really like the light sauce idea of Jamie Oliver. I think you should try that out, just using 500ml of Crème fraîche, 2 handfulls of Parmesan, and a little water to mix it up. If it’s not important to you, that it stays veggie, add 3 anchovies to that and mix your sauce with a hand mixer.
Sorry I didn’t take a picture of the done Cannelloni! Next time I’ll put it up for you :) Have fun cooking, but mostly, eating it!