from one generation to the next
In the late eighties I made my initial foray into the food business. I worked long hours for little financial reward, but I gained a wealth of experience money could never have bought. One enormous positive aspect of this time was sharing my commercial kitchen with Nancy, a hard working Calabrian woman who brought with her years of experience cooking for her large extended family and seasonal workers on the family market garden. She cooked simply and instinctively. Nancy taught me the secret to making traditional robust rustic Italian food.
These ricotta and spinach filled cannelloni are light, savoury and nutritious. The dish can be constructed in its entirety the day before needed and if you have passata to hand, its very quick to prepare. Leftovers microwave exceptionally well.
I know I have already lauded the quality of “Farabella” gluten free pasta elsewhere on my blog, but in case you missed out, I recommend you look out for this exceptional gluten free product, you won’t be sorry!
60g finely grated Parmesan cheese
180g fresh young spinach leaves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
Generous grinding of black pepper
12 cannelloni tubes cooked (I used Farabella gluten free cannelloni)
1 1/2 cups tomato passata* well seasoned
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
Thoroughly was the spinach then drain in a colander but do not spin dry. Put the wet leaves in a pan but do not add any more water. Bring the pot to the boil and as soon as the spinach has collapsed, remove from the heat. Drain the spinach then refresh in cold water to arrest the cooking process. Squeeze as much water as you can from the spinach then roughly chop.
In a medium bowl roughly mash the ricotta with a fork. Add the eggs, spinach, Parmesan, nutmeg and pepper. Mix to thoroughly combine. Set the ricotta mixture aside in the fridge until you are ready to stuff the pasta tubes.
Cook the cannelloni tubes according to the manufacturers instructions. Drain when done, then keep in a bowl of cold water until you are ready to fill the tubes.
Lightly oil an ovenproof dish big that is enough to accomodate the cannelloni in a single layer. Spoon a thin layer of passata over the base of the dish.
Fill the cannelloni tubes with the spinach and ricotta filling. The easiest way to do this is to use a piping bag with a plain nozzle. Alternatively use a teaspoon. Fill the tubes firmly ensuring there are no air pockets. Arrange the cannelloni into the sauce smeared dish in a single layer then top with the remaining sauce.
Scatter the shredded fiore de latte over the passata then top with a light scattering of dried basil and freshly ground black pepper.
Bake in a moderate oven 180C for 45 minutes.
Serves 4 as a light meal or dinner for two healthy appetites
*An easy alternative to passata is to roughly chop 1kg ripe juicy full flavoured tomatoes and boil them down to a pulp. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a little sugar the stir through 1 tablespoon of olive oil.