Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

Cannellonis were something that I had been looking forward to prepare and taste! And finally I did it. I don’t exactly remember how I came across this pasta, probably from food network channel or any TV shows or an internet recipe. Even though the recipe list may scare you, I bet these are not at all difficult to prepare. It is simple and the taste is guaranteed. Preparation takes a bit of time though but not so much as you really would think it would because everything gets cooked so fast apart from the baking time and there is minimal chopping up. Actually I prepared this probably an year ago and prepared again last week, was simply craving for some.

Cannellonis are tube shaped pasta shelled which are filled with any filling of your choice, may it be vegetarian or a pure meataholics delight of saucy minced meat. Here I chose a ricotta and spinach filling which is quite a common combination to go for the filling. I also used a low fat ricotta since I was using quite a lot of it. You can reduce the amount as much as you just wish to have. I just made it twice until now. The first time I made it I made it with mush lesser amount of spinach and ricotta. But the filling was quite less and we got more of lasagne sheets than the filling, but the taste was real good. So the second time I made it, I just increased the amount of cheese and spinach. You may reduce both if you don’t have enough of it or if you wish to have less amount of filling, like to have less spinach or want to use less ricotta, it wont alter the taste much.

Here I have used the lasagne pasta sheets instead of the cannelloni pasta. They are more economical and something that I always used. Unlike other pasta, these pasta comes in layers. The bottom layer consists of the filled shells, followed by tomato sauce on top and white sauce to go over that. I sprinkled with some cheese for that strong flavour. For preparation, I placed the filling on one end of the cooked pasta and rolled it into tube shape by keeping the filling in. I then arranged the rolled pasta into a large baking dish. If your pasta dish doesn’t accommodate in one dish, you can split them into 2 dishes. I then poured the tomato sauce and then poured the white sauce over. Sprinkled with cheese and viola! It’s ready to go.

I m not quite sure how it works with the tube shaped cannelloni though. I don’t know if it has to be pre-cooked before filling. But I have seen uncooked cannelloni sheets being filled with the stuffing and then cooked by pouring the sauce over. The tubes get soft and cooked with the juices from the sauces. Here as you see I have rolled the pasta to form a cannelloni. Instead of that you can make a spinach and ricotta lasagne just by layering the pasta, filling and sauces one after the other. It’s much easier and takes even lesser time. You can check out my lasagne recipe for reference.

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni
Serves 4 Adults
Preparation time: 40-50 minutes
Cooking time: 45– 50 minutes

For the Filling:
Appx. 500g Chopped Spinach (I used the frozen chopped spinach.)
2 ½ cups ricotta (650g) (You may reduce the amount anywhere from 300g-600g)
150g sliced closed cup mushrooms (2 cups)
1 medium size onion sliced (100g,3/4 cup)
2-3 large flake of garlic,sliced
½ tsp dried basil
¼ of a nutmeg grated
½ tsp dried oregano
Salt – to taste
Crushed Black pepper – to taste
1-2 Tbsp Olive oil

Napolitana Sauce (Tomato sauce):
5 large tomatoes, chopped (500g)
2 large flakes of garlic sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium size onion, chopped (100g, ¾ cup)
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried oregano
1 tsp sugar
¾ -1 cup water (Enough to make a thick sauce.)
1 tsp paprika/Kashmiri Chilli powder (Optional - Add only if you want it slightly hot.)
Salt – as required

Bechamel sauce (White sauce):
2 ½ cups- 3 cups (625mls-750mls)- semi skimmed milk or whole milk
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp Olive oil/vegetable oil
2 tbsp plain flour
1 maggi vegetable/chicken bouillon cube (Stock cube)
1 tsp English mustard paste
Salt – as required
1/8 th of a nutmeg grated
Crushed white/black pepper (Optional).


14 – 16 Lasagne sheets
1/3 – ½ cup grated cheddar (optional)
2-4 Tbsp grated Parmesan


Tomato sauce:

Tomato sauce actually needs slow cooking, so the filling can be made while the sauce is cooking. For the sauce,

1.Heat oil in a saucepan and add chopped onion and garlic. Sauté till onion is really soft and translucent.

2. Add in the chopped tomatoes. Cover and cook on medium heat until the tomato has gone all soft and mushy.

3. Add in the herbs and paprika if using it. Add the required amount of water and cook on low for about 25-30 minutes.

4. Add the sugar and adjust salt.

5. Once the sauce is completely cooled, pour it in a food processor and whizz for few seconds until you get a chunky puree. You may do it in you blender as well; but make sure the sauce has cooled enough before you puree it. While the sauce is cooking, prepare the spinach and ricotta filling.

For the filling:
1. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil. Add in the sliced onions and sauté until soft. Add in the sliced garlic and sauté till soft.

2. Add in the sliced mushrooms and cook for about 4 minutes. Add in the chopped spinach, oregano, basil and crushed pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes until the spinach is all well cooked.

3. Grate in the nutmeg and stir well.

4. Turn the heat off and add the ricotta and stir well. Adjust the seasoning and add salt as necessary. Keep the filling aside.

After the filing and the sauce is ready, prepare the béchamel sauce:

1.Heat another saucepan on medium and add oil + butter.

2. Reduce the heat to low, add in flour. Stir continuously for a minute.

3. Take the pan off the heat and milk. Stir continuously using a wire whisk to break up any lumps.

4. Keep the pan back on heat, add the mustard paste and crumbled chicken stock cube. Keep stirring on low-medium heat until the mixture turns thick.

5. Grate in nutmeg and add crushed pepper if using. Stir well.

While the béchamel is cooking you can prepare the pasta.

Cook the lasagne sheets according to the packet instructions and drain the pasta on a clean kitchen towel.

To cook pasta, in a very large saucepan of boiling salted water, add a tablespoon of oil. Add 4-6 sheets of lasagne sheets and stir carefully and continuously, but not vigorously. This will prevent the sheets from sticking to each other. If you find it difficult to handle, you may add 2 sheets at a time and cook. Pick each sheet from the water using tongs and leave to drain on a kitchen towel.


1.Place a cooked lasagne sheet on a clean plate and add 2 heaped tablespoons of filling at the end of shorter side. Roll the pasta carefully keeping the filling in.

2. Place the rolled pasta on an oiled baking dish or a clear pyrex dish or gratin dish.

3. Roll all the pasta in the same manner until all the filling is used up.

4. Keep it in a single layer.

5. Pour the tomato sauce over and spread using a spatula.

6. Pour the white sauce over and lightly spread using spoon. Sprinkle the cheese on top and bake @ 180 degrees Celsius for about 45 – 50 minutes or you see golden brown patches all around.

1. The pasta can be prepared 24 hours ahead, covered with cling film and refrigerated before baking. Then bake directly from the fridge until you see golden patches all around.

2. For the ease of preparation you may try shop bought nepolitana sauce and white sauce. I have never tried both anyways, since I find it easy to prepare the home made ones.

This is my entry for 'Healing foods-Spinach' hosted by divya of Dilse which was started by Siri of siri-corner.
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