Cannelloni with Ricotta and Spinach

Home-made pasta is the ultimate Sunday Lunch treat in Italy.

Forget about a roast beast with all the trimmings, we need our share of starchy goodness, home-made, of course.

From scratch, goes without saying!

Naturally you can use store-bough dried cannelloni, but the flavor and texture won’t be as luxurious.

And, after all, this is Sunday lunch we are talking about, it’s your declaration of love to your family and those lucky friends invited to your table.

It’s well worth a bit of effort.

Just make them do the dishes…

Ingredients and  method, serves 4

16 dried cannelloni shells or 1 quantity of fresh egg pasta dough

For the pasta dough

3 eggs

300 gr (2 -3/4 cups) of all-purpose flour

semolina for dusting

Put eggs and flour in the bowl of a food processor fitted with blades. Pulse 8/10 times or until the mixture resembles wet sand.

Take it out the bowl, press it together with your hands and knead it for 1 or 2 minutes to release the gluten and make it come together in a smooth ball. Add 1 tablespoon of water if the dough feels too dry.

Cover in cling wrap and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Using a pasta machine or a rolling-pin -and your biceps- roll the pasta as thinly as you can.

Cut the pasta sheet into 16 4×10 cm (1.5×4 inches) rectangles, dust them with semolina flour and set aside

For the filling

4 cups of spinach

1 garlic clove

1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil

300 gr (1- 1/2 cups) of whole milk ricotta

2 eggs

3/4 cups of pecorino cheese (or parmigiano)

1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1/4 cup of chopped parsley

salt and pepper to taste

Sautee’ the spinach with garlic and oil, cover with a lid and cook until just wilted. Set aside to cool.

Mix the ricotta with eggs, pecorino cheese, nutmeg, lemon zest, parsley  and seasoning.

Add the cooled spinach and mix to combine.

Rest in the fridge to firm up for 30 minutes.

For the sauce

500 gr (2 cups) of tinned tomatoes

200 ml (3/4 cup) of hot water

1 brown onion, chopped

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

salt to taste

fresh oregano leaves

For the topping

1 cup Parmigiano or pecorino and  1 cup shredded mozzarella

Sautee’ the onion in oil until soft and translucent, add the tomatoes and the water and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down, and cook gently for 15 minutes. Season with salt  and fresh oregano leaves.

Assembling the dish

Line an oven tray with baking paper. Smear a few tablespoons of tomato sauce to create a moist bed for the cannelloni to lay on.

Fill each cannelloni or pasta rectangle with 2-3 tablespoons of filling. Roll the pasta sheet to enclose it and place it, seam side down onto the tray. Repeat with remaining ingredients until you have 1 layer of cannelloni. If you have left-over pasta and filling, proceed to fill up another tray.

Cover the layer of cannelloni with the tomato sauce so that each pasta roll is nicely drowned in it. Add some water if you think you don’t have enough sauce.

Dust the top with pecorino or parmigiano,  shredded mozzarella cheese, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and bake at 200 C (390 F) for 30 minutes or until nicely browned on top.

Rest at room temperature for 20 minutes covered in foil, then serve.

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