Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni is an easy dish that can be prepared a few hours ahead of time, then just put in the oven at the last minute … perfect for casual entertaining. I use Barilla cannelloni tubes that don’t need to be cooked before filling, the moisture from the sauce softens them as they bake, just be sure it says ‘no pre-cook’ (or similar) on the pack. I’ve also used this filling with large shell-shaped pasta (conchiglioni) for an unusual dinner party entrée, though they do need to be boiled before filling. If ricotta is very fresh it contains a lot of liquid, so leave it in a strainer for an hour or so to drain, I use the one from Vannella Cheese in Sydney. Disposable piping bags, available from kitchenware shops, make filling the tubes easy. I like a soft red with this, such as the pinot noir from Lark Hill, a biodynamic winery in the Canberra District of NSW – though a gamay or Beaujolais would be great too.
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for oiling
- 500g baby spinach
- Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 600g ricotta cheese, drained
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan
- 24 (250g) cannelloni tubes
- Green salad, for serving
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 red onions, finely diced
- Salt flakes, to taste
- 800g Italian canned tomatoes, chopped
- ¼ cup basil leaves, finely sliced
Here’s all you need to know about cooking pasta perfectly (scroll down to Q&A).
- Make Tomato Sauce: place oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in onion and salt, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until soft. Stir in tomato, crush well with a potato masher or wooden spoon and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes then stir in basil and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Heat oil in a large, high-sided frying pan over low heat. Add spinach and salt, cover and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until spinach is thoroughly wilted. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to add spinach in batches as each lot wilts a little to make room for more.
- Tip spinach into a sieve and set aside to cool enough to handle. Squeeze to remove as much excess liquid as possible, then chop roughly.
- Combine well with ricotta, egg, nutmeg, salt, pepper and half the parmesan.
- Oil the bottom of a baking dish and cover with one third of the Tomato Sauce.
- Using a piping bag, pipe the ricotta mixture into the cannelloni tubes, arranging them in the dish in a single layer.
- Pour remaining sauce over the top, pressing them down gently, if necessary, so they are all covered with sauce.
- Sprinkle with remaining parmesan and bake for 40 minutes.
- Serve with a green salad.