Cannelloni With Spinach and Ricotta: An Easy Dinner Idea
Cannelloni With Spinach and Ricotta – The Best Italian Sunday Meal
Cannelloni are, in essence, pasta tubes filled with ricotta and spinach or cooked mince meats.
Although Italy’s history of pasta goes back to the 4th century BC, cannelloni seems to be a bit younger. Their origin traced around the 8th century CE, in the Etruscan times. There are mentions of this dish in Toscana and Campania around the same time, even if there is some distance between the two regions.
Today, all supermarkets sell packs of dry tubes, and this saves time in cooking cannelloni. Nevertheless, the Italians praise themselves for making fresh pasta for all occasions; they will probably go for the longer cooking time, the more caloric result and the unique taste of homemade food.
This recipe sticks with quick and easy, as always. If you have some time you want to kill and want to give it a try, here is an original Italian recipe for fresh pasta published by Italy’s most successful cooking website, Giallo Zafferano.
The choice is yours, but have a look at this comparison chart before you make a decision:
Dry Cannelloni/100g Homemade pasta/100g
Calories 357 Calories 130
Carbohydrate 79.3g Carbohydrate 23.5g
Protein 7.5g Protein 5.3g
Fat 2.1g (Saturated 0.3g) Fat 1.7 (Saturated 0.4g)
Sodium 3mg Sodium 83mg
Keep in mind that if you make fresh pasta, it will weigh around 400g, so the above values multiply at least four times. Homemade pasta is yummier, but it adds to calories.
What you need for six portions of Cannelloni with spinach and Ricotta:
One pack dry cannelloni (26 tubes)
500 g ricotta cheese
400 g fresh spinach
4-5 garlic cloves
One glass of white wine
200 g hard cheese (grated)
One tin of tomatoes (blended) or one jar of passata
Spices: salt, ground pepper, ground nutmeg
How to make Cannelloni:
First, make a test with the tubes, see how they fill the tray you will use and how many pieces you need in total. Of a 250g box that contained 27 tubes, I used 26 that fitted my 25X36 cm tray perfectly.
Preheat the oven to maximum 190°C/fan 170°C/gas 5.
Wash and drain the spinach. Fill a saucepan with half a litre of water (two cups approximately). When the water starts boiling, add the spinach and simmer for 20-30 seconds until it softens.
Cool the spinach under cold water to stop it from boiling and preserve the vivid green colour.
Place the entire quantity of ricotta in a bowl, add the battered eggs, the cooled spinach, the smashed garlic, plus the spices and mix to incorporate well all the ingredients.
With this paste, fill the pasta tubes using a teaspoon. If you prefer, you can use a piping bag or place the paste in a plastic bag, cut a small piece at one of the corners to make a hole and fill the tubes one by one. I used a teaspoon, but I appreciate that a bag would make this process less messy.
Place the tubes in the baking tray as you fill them. If you have any spare paste, spread it on top, then spread the entire quantity of tomato puree over it. Lastly, pour the glass of wine on the sides; together with the tomato puree, it will soak the pasta tubes during cooking.
Place the tray on the middle rake and cook for about 40 minutes. When it is nearly ready, add the grated cheese and leave it another five minutes in the oven.
On this occasion, the only cheese I had in the fridge was a Provolone Picante semi-hard cheese with a strong aroma. A fussy eater that makes a third of my family was offended by the strong smell. I ignored them. Twenty minutes later, they licked the plate clean. Ha!
When it cools a tad, this easy version of cannelloni with spinach and ricotta is ready to serve.
Because we only ate half of it for dinner, I kept the other half in the fridge and reheated it the next day. It was still yummy!
Pour a glass of whatever white wine you used in the preparation and enjoy your dinner. Buon appetito!
This recipe is an example of an easier and healthier way to make cannelloni. If you feel like going for the full Italian recipe, you can find here how to make the béchamel sauce to add over the pasta tubes before they go in the oven.
You will still have to add the tomato puree over the béchamel layer and, of course, follow Giallo Zafferano’s video instructions for fresh pasta mentioned in a link at the beginning of this recipe.
Spinach and ricotta are just one way of filling the cannelloni. However, as with any pasta, this one is too a versatile recipe. If meat is your thing, you can prepare a completely different dinner!
Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni
- Mixin bowl+spatula
- Baking tray 25X36 cm
- Piping bag or teaspoon
- 26 pcs cannelloni tubes 1 pack
- 400 g fresh spinach organic
- 500 g Ricotta cheese 2 packs
- 200 g hard cheese grated
- 3 pcs eggs organic
- 1 glass white wine dry
- 4-5 pcs garlic cloves organic
- 1 tin organic chopped tomatoes (blended) or organic passata jar
- 1 tsp spices (rock/sea salt, black ground pepper, ground nutmeg ) 1 tsp of each
- Place empty tubes in the tray to check how they feet and establish how many you will need.
- Preheat the oven to 170°C/338°F/gas mark 3
- Wash and drain the spinach.
- Place two cups of cold water in a saucepan and bring to boil. Add the spinach, reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 seconds until it softens.
- Cool the spinach under cold water to stop it from boiling and preserve the vivid green colour. Drain.
- In a large bowl, empty the Ricotta packs, add the battered eggs, cooled spinach, smashed garlic and spices. Mix well.
- Use a piping bag or a teaspoon to fill the cannelloni tubes with this paste.
- Place the filled tubes in the tray. If you have any left-over paste, spread it on top of the tubes.
- Spread the puréed tomatoes over the tubes.
- Pour a glass of white wine on the side of the tubes; together with the tomato purée, it will help soak the pasta tubes during cooking.
- Place the tray on the middle rack in the oven and nake for 40 minutes.
- Five minutes before the time is up, remove the tray from the oven, add the grated hard cheese and bake for the remainder of the time.
- When ready, allow a few minutes to slightly cool, then serve, preferably with a glass of white wine.