I must admit I borrowed some of the methods for this recipe from Jamie Oliver. I particularly like his idea for using creme fraiche instead of white sauce as it makes the dish a lot lighter and sauteing the spinach for more flavor.
Ingredients for 4 people
For the Pasta:
- 1 egg
- 1 cup of plain flour
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp of green pesto (optional)
For the Filling:
- 250 g spinach ( 1 bag)
- 3-4 anchovies
- 1 garlic clove
- olive oil for sauteing
- 250 g ricotta cheese
- 100 g cottage cheese
- 2 heaped tbsp of parmesan cheese
For the topping:
- 300 ml creme fraiche
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3-4 tbsp parmesan cheese
- 400 ml tomato sauce ( shop bought is fine or make your own)
- 2 mozzarella balls
Make the Cannelloni according to my recipe for homemade pasta, alternatively you can use ready shop bought. But trust me it’s worth making your own.
Heat a little olive oil in a pan with the anchovies and one crushed garlic glove. Saute the spinach for about 5 minutes, when it’s nearly ready add a pinch of dried oregano and a teaspoon of green pesto. Let it cool down a bit and then mix the spinach with the ricotta and cottage cheese ( I used chives and onion ricotta, but you can use plain one). Add two heaped table spoons of parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste. If you want you can add a little more pesto for extra flavor but don’t overdo it as you won’t be able to taste anything else.
Put the oven on 180 C. Drain the cannelloni and lay them on a tray or flat surface so it’s easier to pick them up for filling. Drizzle a little olive oil on the baking tray and cover with about 1/3 of the tomato sauce.
Start filling your cannelloni sheets and carefully rolling them. Use about 2 table spoons per sheet.It will get messy. I used a small plate and to just slide the rolled cannelloni onto the tray. I found some of the cannelloni were tearing apart and the filling comes out on the sides, but think of the end result, it will be awesome. Once all the cannelloni are laid in the tray, pour the rest of the tomato sauce on top, spooning it evenly on all the pasta.
Pour the creme fraiche in the bowl where the cannelloni filling was and mix it with a couple of table spoons of water, just to make it a bit runnier. Pour it evenly on top of the cannelloni. Sprinkle 2-3 table spoons of parmesan cheese on top and then tear all the mozzarella into little chunks on top. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30-40 minutes or until the top is nice and golden.
You can serve this pasta dish with some garlic bread or just salad. I served mine with a spring green salad.
A few tips and tricks:
- If you are a bit worried about rolling the cannelloni you can always turn this dish into a lasagna by layering sheets of pasta and filling, finishing off with a pasta layer.
- If you fancy a meaty version, just substitute the spinach for minced beef and cook if the same way, only for longer, until the beef is browned and cooked through. Alternatively for a vegetarian option just leave the anchovies out.
- You can substitute the ricotta for cottage cheese
- You can prepare the dish a few hours in advance and cook it just before dinner. Store it in the fridge though!
The whole preparation has taken me around 2 hours, so it is a bit time consuming, but the end result is very rewarding. I also think it’s quite impressive to say you’ve made your own pasta.
I hope you enjoy my recipe, please let me know what you think!