A classic Italian pasta recipe. Homemade pasta squares wrapped around a spinach, ricotta, Parmigiano Reggiano filling and smothered in a rich Béchamel sauce.
Manu from Manu’s Menu was our Daring Cooks lovely June hostess and has challenged us to make traditional Italian cannelloni from scratch! We were taught how to make the pasta, filling, and sauces shared with us from her own and her family’s treasured recipes!
Born and raised in Italy, it was only natural that Manu would challenge us to make pasta. “This is one of the 2 most classic recipes for cannelloni. “Magro” means “lean”, but when used in a recipe it actually means “without meat”, so it is a vegetarian dish. The filling is very simple and it is made up of spinach, ricotta and Parmigiano Reggiano. The filled cannelloni are then covered with béchamel sauce and Parmigiano Reggiano and baked. They are my absolute favourite!”
The filling came together quickly. Manu lets the spinach drain in a colander for about an hour, but I used my salad spinner to spin the spinach almost dry and then wrapped it in paper towels to squeeze out any remaining water.
Making the pasta dough was easy, especially in a food processor. It came together in just a few minutes. I borrowed my neighbor’s pasta maker and the noodles were a breeze to make too. My husband filled and rolled the cannelloni while I boiled the noodles.
The cannelloni was luscious. My husband suggested next time adding some garlic, basil and maybe a little bit of red pepper flakes to spicy it up a little bit. I had a hard time returning my neighbor’s pasta maker. The homemade pasta was so easy with the pasta maker, I really need to get my own and make it more often.
- 100 grams (2/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons) all-purpose flour (I used semolina flour)
- 1 large egg
- 2 cups milk, hot
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 2 bunches raw spinach
- 1-2/3 cups (400 gm) (14 oz) ricotta
- 2 cups (120 gms) Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated, divided
- Salt and pepper
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 1 large egg
- 8 Cannelloni sheets (recipe above)
- Béchamel sauce (recipe above)
- In a food processor blend the flour and egg until the mixture forms a ball. Knead well by hand until you obtain a smooth dough. Make it into a ball, wrap it in cling wrap and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.
- Shaping the pasta: Cut out a piece of egg pasta dough and flatten it into a rectangular shape with your hands. Put a little flour on it and begin passing it though the pasta machine. Turn the dial to the widest setting (#1) and, starting with one of the shorter sides of the rectangle, feed it through the rollers. Now fold one side of the piece of dough into the middle, then fold the other side over that to form 3 layers. Starting with one of the narrower sides of the folded dough, feed the pasta through the machine, again at the widest setting. Repeat the folding and rolling technique on the widest setting for at least a couple of times. Now you can start rolling it thinner, by turning the dial to the next narrowest setting (# 2). Roll the pasta through the machine without folding the dough between settings. Keep reducing the settings until #7 (it is the second last on my machine – about 1 mm thick). If the sheet of pasta gets too long, you can cut it in half with a knife. To make cannelloni, cut out rectangular pasta sheets
- Put the butter in a non-stick pot and let it melt. Add the flour and whisk constantly until well
- incorporated: this is the “roux”. Let it cook for a minute or two.
- Gradually add hot milk stirring continuously until the milk is incorporated. Add salt and nutmeg and cook it on a low flame for 10 minutes or until it thickens.
- When ready, cover it to prevent a film to appear on the surface.
- Note: If you still get a lumpy sauce, do not throw it out. You can still save it and make it smooth by using a hand stick blender.
- Clean and wash the spinach. Cook them for 2 minutes in salty boiling water. Drain them and run some cold water on them to cool it down quickly (this will help them retain a nice green colour).
- Keep them in the colander for 1 hour to lose the excess water. (I used my salad spinner to spin out most of the water than wrapped it up in paper towels to squeeze out any remaining water.) Then squeeze them with your hands to get rid of as much liquid as possible.
- Cut the spinach finely with a knife.
- Put the ricotta in a bowl, add the minced spinach, egg, 1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano, nutmeg, salt and pepper and mix until well combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Put a large pot with salty water on the fire and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta sheets in it for 1 minute. Do this in batches (I use a shallow but large pot and I cook them in 1 layer, so I am sure they do not stick together). Remove them with a slotted spoon and put them on a clean tea towel to cool down.
- Now take one sheet of cooked pasta and put 1/8 of the filling along the long side of the rectangle. Roll it over to make a cannellone. Do so for the remaining rectangles of pasta.
- Take a big enough oven dish to fit all your cannelloni tightly. Spray it with some cooking oil (or melted butter) and pour some béchamel sauce on the bottom. Spread it well, especially in the corners. Put the cannelloni in the oven dish on 1 layer.
- Cover the cannelloni with the remaining béchamel sauce and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmigiano Reggiano.
- Bake them in a pre-heated moderate oven 350°F for 20 minutes, then broil 400°F for another 5 minutes until golden brown.
- Serve immediately.
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