One of my all time favourite cuisines is Italian — love to make it, love to eat it. Even my kids eat more pasta than any other type of food. The heartiness that comes with a big bowl of pasta with the right sauce just cannot be topped. Absolute comfort food.
Last week, I made ricotta and I promised to share a recipe using it soon. That rich, creamy ricotta along with some spinach made the filling of my cannelloni dish. I have made and perfected my lasagna recipes many times but this was the first time I tried my hands at cannelloni and I had so much fun making it that now its my new favourite Italian dish to experiment with.
The best part of this cannelloni was its rich filling with so many flavours in it. It was even better than my all time favourite tomato sauce (that goes so well with any pasta dish!). I could have just eaten that filling by the spoonfuls. I made the ricotta and the tomato sauce a day ahead so i just had to make the filling and assemble the dish on the given day. I feel the tomato sauce strengthens in flavour if left overnight.
For the tomato sauce:
1/2kg fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 250g can of Italian peeled tomatoes
1 large onion, sliced
1-2 tablespoons garlic, finely sliced or crushed
1/2 teaspoon each of dried oregano, thyme, basil (or use italian seasoning)
3-4 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon vinegar
1-2 tablespoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste
For the filling:
1kg spinach, chopped
200g of ricotta
250g mushrooms, chopped
100g mozzarella, chopped or shredded
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, crushed
salt and pepper
10 lasagna sheets to roll up
100g mozzarella, shredded
For the tomato sauce:
I have a pretty foolproof recipe of this tomato sauce that I have perfected over the years. I use it for various pasta dishes now, like lasagna, pasta with meatballs, spaghetti bolognese and sometimes just with any kind of plain boiled pasta. I sometimes make in it batches and freeze it for emergency pasta needs around the house :p
Heat up some oil. Fry garlic till golden. Add onions and fry till translucent. Add dried herbs and cook for a minute. Add tomato paste and fry for a bit. Next add your fresh chopped tomatoes and canned tomatoes. You can add a little bit of water now if you want. Let the tomatoes cook on med low heat for half an hour. The more time you let it cook, the more flavour it will impart. I usually cook for 45 mins at least. After this the tomatoes would have been completely broken down and soft. Small chucks should remain. Now add salt, pepper, vinegar, sugar according to the taste. The sauce should feel balanced in sweetness, saltiness and acidity so add more or less accordingly.
For the filling:
Heat up some oil. Fry onion and garlic. Next add your chopped spinach (drain excess water beforehand). Cook for 5-10 minutes till spinach is soft n cooked. Add mushrooms. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add seasoning. Remove from heat and add ricotta and mozzarella and stir evenly.
Cook you lasagna sheets according to the instructions on the box. Drain and keep them aside. Brush them with oil so they don’t stick.
Pre-heat oven to 180C. Take a large oven-proof dish (similar to the one you bake a lasagna in) and coat slightly with oil.
Take one pasta sheet and spread it on a flat surface. Put about 2 tablespoons of filling on its one end. Roll it up and place it the dish. Make all the rolls and fill up your dish. Now take you tomato sauce and put one tablespoon of it over each roll. Pour some more sauce over the sides of the dish. And sprinkle the left over mozzarella over the dish. Put it in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes till the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted and browned.
Do let me know how it goes if you try it out.