I made my own cannelloni! I’m a bit impressed with myself!
I tried once before to make this dish. I bought the dried cannelloni tubes and the filling was a dryer mixture of mushrooms and butternut squash. It was a disaster. A big, faffy, messy disaster.
This time I stuck with the classic spinach and ricotta filling and I had the idea to buy fresh lasagne sheets and rolling my own tubes. Genius!
I never usually buy fresh pasta; only ever dried. My thinking was that fresh was very pricey and a bit pretentious. But actually, for this particular recipe, it’s the way to go.
I used a frozen Italian herb mix that Ocado delivered to us by mistake. I don’t usually buy ready made herb mixes but these were a welcome freebie! But by all means, use dried herbs or whatever you usually have to hand.
10 blocks of frozen spinach
1 tsp ground nutmeg
250g tub ricotta
Handful of grated parmesan/mature cheddar (plus extra for sprinkling on top)
2 tsp/cloves minced garlic
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 tbs fresh thyme, oregano or basil, chopped (or 1 tsp dried equivalent)
1 tsp sugar
Oil for cooking (I used my own homemade lemon and garlic infused oil for extra flavour)
First you need to get your tomato sauce on because this will be the base of your dish. Heat up a little oil in a pan and add two heaped tablespoons of herbs and one of the cloves of garlic. Give it a minute or two to soften, then add the tin of tomatoes and a teaspoon of sugar. Fill the can with cold water and add that to the pan.
Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and leave to simmer for ten minutes.
In another pan warm through the other clove of garlic and nutmeg in a little oil, then add the frozen spinach and leave to thaw and heat through.
Take the spinach off the heat and stir through the ricotta, a handful of grated cheese and plenty of black pepper.
By now, the tomato sauce should have reduced slightly. You want a fairly thin, runny sauce. Take it off the heat, season well and tip it into a large ovenproof dish.
Time to roll the cannelloni. The fresh lasagne sheets should be soft and pliable. Dollop a tablespoon of the ricotta filling at one end and carefully roll. Place it in the ovenproof dish on top of the tomato sauce. Make sure the loose end of the lasagne sheet is tucked underneath to stop it from unrolling.
Continue rolling until all the filling has been used up and the cannelloni are nice and snug in their dish. I had 11 packed into my dish. I have no idea why there was an odd number of lasagne sheets in my packet but it made me feel a bit twitchy.
Most recipes add a layer of white sauce on top of the cannelloni at this point to keep the pasta moist. If you want to do that, my recipe is here. I couldn’t be bothered. Instead I added half a ton of cheese.
I baked it in the oven for 30 minutes at 180 degrees. The lack of white sauce meant the top of my pasta was very crispy after baking but I quite liked the added texture in an otherwise squidgy soft dish.