Spinach and ricotta cannelloni
- 1 h 50 min
Succulent lasagna, irresistible roast potatoes, and the perennial favorite meatloaf are all typical dishes for Sunday lunch, as are the timeless cannelloni. These tasty pasta tubes filled with a mix of beef and sausage, topped with béchamel and tomato sauce, are a traditional first course dish in the region of Emilia. Rich and satisfying, cannelloni are the perfect dish for special occasions, Easter, for example, perhaps in a vegetarian version with eggplant and spinach! It’s something we’ve all tried at some point in our lives, and the idea of the cannelloni our grandmothers used to make can bring back so many good memories... Today, by following our steps and with a little patience, you’ll get a dish that will create new good memories for your guests, worthy of grandma’s approval! Try them for your Christmas menu, too!
To make the cannelloni, start with the filling. Clean and finely chop the celery, carrot, and onion 1. Then removing the casing from the sausage and chop the meat using a knife 2. Now move to the stove. Add a drizzle of oil to a warm pot, then add the sausage and let it brown well 3.
When it’s nice and golden, pour in the chopped vegetables and stir 4, then let them sweat for 5-6 minutes. Next, add the ground beef 5, stir, and turn up the heat. Let the beef brown slowly. Deglaze with the red wine 6 and stir again.
As soon as the alcohol has evaporated, add the tomato purée 7. Stir to combine everything and rinse the pot with a little water to remove any remaining stuck-on pieces, then season with salt. Cover the pot with a vented lid and leave to cook for an hour 8, checking on it every once in a while. Meanwhile, make the egg pasta. Pour the flour into a bowl, beat the egg lightly 9, and then add to the bowl as well.
Work the mixture with your hands to combine all the ingredients 10. Next, transfer to a pastry board 11 and work it some more until you get a smooth and even, firm and elastic dough 12. Shape this dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and leave it to rest for around one hour in a cool, dry place so that it develops the right elasticity.
Now make the béchamel sauce. First, heat the milk, seasoned with the grated nutmeg and salt 13. Add the butter to another pot and let it melt completely 14. Sift the flour and, once the butter has melted, add this flour to the butter and stir vigorously 15.
After a couple of minutes, you’ll get a hazelnut-colored roux. Remove the pot from the heat for a moment and pour in the hot milk 16. Keep stirring until the béchamel is thick but still fluid 17, around 4-5 minutes. Transfer the béchamel to a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap 18. Once cool, if the sauce is too dense, you can dilute it with a little milk.
Take your egg pasta dough 19 that’s been rested and developed the right elasticity, and divide it in two. Put each half through a dough sheeter 20, starting with the thicker side and finishing with the thinner one. You need to get a sheet about the thickness of a nickel coin (2 mm). If you don’t have a dough sheeter, you can roll out the dough by hand using a lightly floured rolling pin. Cut the sheets of dough into rectangles measuring 4x5.5 inches (10x14 cm) 21.
Next, blanch your pasta rectangles one at a time in boiling, slightly salted water 22, for about 1 minute each. Drain and transfer to a tray covered with a clean kitchen cloth. Be sure to lay the pasta out perfectly, without the rectangles overlapping each other 23. If you’d like, you can also run them under cold water to stop the cooking process. In the meantime, the ragu will be ready and will have cooled 24. Set 1/2 lb (250 g) aside.
Add the grated cheese 25 to the remaining ragu and season with pepper 26. Stir and place in the fridge 27.
Take one pasta rectangle and fill it with ragu just in the bottom half 28, leaving about an inch of space from the top edge. Then roll the pasta up onto itself 29. Seal the pasta to make a cylinder 30.
Spread a couple of spoonfuls of béchamel on the bottom of a 9x13-inch (20x30-cm) baking dish 31. Arrange your cannelloni in the dish. Cover with the remaining béchamel and ragu that you set aside, and 2 tbsp of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese 32. Bake your cannelloni in a conventional oven preheated to 390°F (200°C) for 15 minutes on the middle rack, and then for 5 minutes at 465°F (240°C) on the highest rack and in broiler mode, until a golden crust forms on top. Now you just have to serve your cannelloni while they’re still hot 33!
You can store the cannelloni in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 days. You can also freeze them if all the ingredients you used were fresh.
For a hand with stuffing your cannelloni, you can also put the filling in a pastry bag to make it easier to distribute it on the pasta rectangles.