Simple to make and using everyday ingredients, turn a familiar dish into something memorable. This Baked Spinach and Ricotta Rotolo is like cannelloni on steroids because it is everything you know and love about cannelloni, PLUS there are brown crunchy bits. And brown crunchy bits are always the best!
I hate to blow my own horn, but I have to say, this is the best (new) thing I’ve made in a while (and if you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know I’ve been cooking ALOT lately!). The rich tomato sauce. The creamy spinach and ricotta filling spiked with parmesan and nutmeg. Golden brown bubbly cheese. And the brown crunchy bits, the crowning glory. How inappropriate is it to pick off all the crunchy bits? I’m so classless.
Rotolo is not widely known outside of Italy. The literal translation of “rotolo” is “scroll”,or “coil”. The authentic way of making rotolo involves a very large fresh pasta sheet that is spread with a filling then rolled up to form a roulade. It’s quite technical and fussy because you then need to wrap the roulade in a tea towel and poach it, then slice it to serve with a sauce.
For day to day cooking, I shelved this as a “too hard” recipe. But then I came across a version made by Jamie Oliver. The way he made it, it was basically cannelloni which is sliced then placed into the tomato sauce and baked. It’s not purely authentic, but for ordinary people like me, it is much more practical. And so darn tasty! Those brown bits….those crunchy brown bits. They make this dish!
Jamie Oliver’s recipe is made with squash and spinach and has a lot more ingredients and steps than my version made using a simple but proper spinach and ricotta filling and a made-from-scratch tomato pasta sauce. And it’s all made in one pan! You cook the tomato sauce in the oven proof pan then nestle the rotolo straight into the sauce to pop into the oven.
I truly hope you give this Baked Spinach and Ricotta Rotolo a go. I rate this in my top 5 Kitchen Successes for 1H 2014!
- 8 fresh lasagne sheets (15cm/6" x 11cm/4.5")
- 1/2 cup Mozarella cheese , shredded
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese , for serving (optional)
- 250 g / 8 oz frozen spinach (pre chopped)
- 500 g / 1 lb ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 garlic clove , minced
- 1/4 fresh nutmeg , grated (or 1/8 tsp nutmeg powder)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Black pepper
- 700 g / 24 oz passata (pureed tomatoes) (Note 4)
- 1 brown onion , diced
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- Handful basil leaves (optional)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Black pepper
Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
Heat oil in a 22cm/9" ovenproof pan over medium high heat.
Add garlic and sauté for 10 seconds then add onion.
Cook onion until translucent and starting to turn golden, then add the remaining Tomato Sauce ingredients.
Simmer for 2 minutes to bring the flavours together, then remove from heat.
Scoop out 1 cup of the Tomato Sauce which will be used to drizzle over the dish at the end.
Defrost the spinach in the microwave on high for 2 minutes.
Squeeze the excess water out of the spinach using your hands, then place in a large bowl.
Add remaining Filling ingredients and mix well to combine. I find it easiest (fastest) to do this with my hands.
As per the photo, lay out the lasagne sheet with the shorter end in front of you. The reason is that you want to roll these up so they are fatter than cannelloni.
Place 1/3 cup (packed) of filling onto the lasagne sheet. Dab some water on the end furthest away from you (to seal the roll), then roll up starting from the end closest to you. Finish with the seal down.
Continue with remaining lasagne sheets.
Cut rolls into 3 (so each piece is 3.5cm/1.5" wide).
Place the rolls into the tomato sauce with the filling facing up.
Drizzle the reserved Tomato Sauce over the rotolo, then bake for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and scatter the mozzarella over. Return to oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and golden.
Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
1. Don't worry if your lasagne sheets are not exactly the same size, so long as they are the right size for rolling up (or cut to size) you can use any size you want.
2. Passata is pureed tomato, thinner than tomato paste and smoother than crushed tomatoes. You can substitute with crushed tomatoes but you will need to add about 1/3 cup of water when simmering the sauce otherwise it will dry out too much when baking.
3. You can substitute the frozen with fresh spinach if you want. You will need 200g/7oz of fresh spinach. Add it raw to the filling mixture, but before doing so you will need to squeeze it (a handful at at time) to get the excess liquid out, otherwise your filling will be watery.
4. Tomato passata is just pureed canned tomatoes. Nowadays it is readily available in supermarkets, usually alongside pasta sauces. It costs just a tiny bit more, sometimes the same, as canned tomatoes. If you can't find it, puree canned tomatoes or use crushed canned tomatoes.
5. To make ahead, this is best frozen before baking. Assemble the dish but do not put the cheese on (because if you bake it the whole time with the cheese, the cheese will burn), freeze in an airtight container, then defrost completely before baking (follow the recipe instructions). You will probably need to add 5 minutes to the baking time.
If you freeze it after baking it: defrost completely then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of water (most of it over the pasta sauce) per 6 pieces of rotolo before reheating. If you reheat it in the microwave, stick it under the grill/broiler for a few minutes (after reheating it) to make the top crunchy again, and I also recommend adding some fresh cheese, just to freshen the dish up. To reheat it in the oven, reheat at 180C/300F covered until just warmed through. Then remove the cover, scatter over some fresh cheese then return to oven until the top is crunchy, the cheese melted and the rotolo is heated through.
6. Nutrition per serving.