Spinach and ricotta cannelloni
- Difficulty: Average
- Prep time: 1 h 20 min
- Cook time: 30 min
- Makes: 8 pieces
- Cost: Low
- Note + resting time for the egg pasta (approx. 1 hour)
What makes spinach and ricotta cannelloni such an irresistible first course dish? Its wholesome simplicity? The balance between the homemade fresh pasta and succulent filling? The golden crust on the delicious baked béchamel sauce? Or maybe the fact that it smells like home, like Sunday lunch of days gone by? We’ve given it some thought, but we haven’t been able to come up with just one answer: They’re all equally wonderful ingredients that make this recipe a real classic of Italian cuisine that’s loved by both old and young alike. Perfect for vegetarian menus or special occasions!
- For the filling
- Spinach ½ lb (250 g)
- Cow's milk ricotta cheese ⅔ cup (150 g)
- Eggs 1 - medium
- Garlic 1 clove
- Extra virgin olive oil to taste
- Grana Padano DOP cheese ½ cup (50 g) - grated
- Nutmeg 1 pinch
- Black pepper to taste
- Fine salt to taste
- For the béchamel sauce
- Whole milk 2 ¼ cups (500 g)
- Flour 00 ⅓ cup (37 g)
- Butter 3 tbsp (50 g)
- Fine salt 1 pinch
- Nutmeg to taste
- Black pepper 1 pinch
- For baking au gratin
- Grana Padano DOP cheese to taste
How to prepare Spinach and ricotta cannelloni
To make the spinach and ricotta cannelloni, start by making the egg pasta. Pour the flour into a bowl, setting a little aside. Lightly beat the egg 1, add to the bowl, and then work the mixture with your hands to combine all the ingredients 2. Now transfer the dough to a pastry board and keep working it 3, adding the flour you set aside as needed.
Once you have a smooth, even dough that’s firm and elastic, shape it into a ball 4. At this point, wrap the dough in plastic wrap 5 and leave to rest for around one hour in a cool, dry place so that it develops the right elasticity. While the dough is resting, turn to the spinach. Pour the oil into a pot, add the garlic, let it brown and then remove it. Wash and drain the spinach well, then add it to the pot 6.
Season with salt and let it cook, covered, for around 5 minutes, until the spinach has wilted 7. Once cooked, let the spinach cool. Meanwhile, prepare the béchamel sauce. First, warm the milk. Then add the butter to another pot and let it melt completely. Now sift the flour 8 and, once the butter has melted, add it to the butter and stir vigorously. After a couple of minutes, you’ll get a hazelnut-colored roux. Remove the pot from the heat for a moment and slowly pour in the hot milk 9.
Keep stirring and season the béchamel with a pinch of salt and pepper and some grated nutmeg 10. Continue to cook the béchamel over medium heat for 5-6 minutes until you get the desired consistency, then transfer to a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap 11. The spinach will be cool by now; transfer to a cutting board and chop roughly with a knife 12.
Place the chopped spinach in a large bowl, add the ricotta 13, stir with a fork, and then add the eggs 14. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg and stir to combine. Finally, add the grated cheese 15.
Stir the ingredients together well 16. Now transfer this mixture to a pastry bag and put it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Take your egg pasta dough that’s rested and developed the right elasticity, and divide it in two 17. Roll each portion of dough through a dough sheeter to number 8 18 so you 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 sheet into rectangles measuring 3½x5½ inches (9x14 cm) 19, taking into account the length of your baking dish. Next, blanch your pasta rectangles one at a time in boiling, slightly salted water 20, for about 1 minute each. Drain and transfer to a tray covered with a clean kitchen cloth 21. Be sure to lay the pasta out perfectly, without the rectangles overlapping each other. If you’d like, you can also run them under cold water to stop the cooking process.
Place around 3½ oz (100 g) of filling in the middle of the pasta, using the pastry bag 22. Then roll the pasta up onto itself to form a cylinder 23. Now spread 2 heaping spoonfuls of béchamel in a baking dish 24.
Arrange your cannelloni in the dish 25 and cover with the remaining béchamel 26, distributing it well 27.
Sprinkle with the grated cheese 28 and bake in a conventional oven preheated to 390°F (200°C) for around 15 minutes. Then switch to broiler mode at 450°F (230°C) and cook for another 5 minutes until a golden crust has formed on top 29. Your spinach and ricotta cannelloni are now ready to be served piping hot 30!
You can keep your spinach and ricotta cannelloni in the fridge for 1-2 days in an airtight container. You can freeze the cannelloni either before cooking them, and then defrost in the fridge and cook in the oven, or after cooking them, and then defrost in the fridge and reheat in the oven.
For a more original filling, try using chard instead of spinach, and for an even crispier crust, sprinkle with Grana Padano or grated caciocavallo cheese!
“My dear Albina, I am sorry to give you a great pain. But I have a sudden passion for can-nel-lo-ni. You need to have cannelloni ready at any time of day or night. Cannelloni! Cannelloni! Thank you!” This was the note that the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio left his cook to implore her to make cannelloni often. Not even an aesthete like him could resist the rich goodness of such a succulent dish!