Imagine coming home to this Spinach Ricotta Cannelloni…… a juicy spinach and ricotta filling inside cannelloni pasta tubes, topped with a simple, super tasty tomato basil sauce and melted cheese. One of my signature recipes!
Cannelloni is as hard to photograph as Lasagna. To me, I see a plate of squiggly, squishy, deformed, saucy, cheesy deliciousness. But looking at it objectively, it just looks messy, doesn’t it?? Nothing like the neat cannelloni you see on frozen meal packets and pasta packets.
I bet they cheat.
“They” being food stylists. 😂
There are two ways to make cannelloni – either stuffing tubes or rolling the filling up in fresh lasagna sheets. I like using the tubes – partly because they are more cost effective. And also because I like the size – a better filling to pasta/sauce/cheese ratio. Lasagna sheets are thicker and you need a double layer where the sheets overlap to seal in the filling and inevitably, the cannelloni’s end up bigger.
And I know what many of you are thinking – stuffing the tubes is a pain. After many years of using knives / thin spoons / combination of those + the end of wooden spoons and I finally accepted the inevitable fact: hands down, the fastest way to fill those tubes is with a piping bag. 7 seconds per tube x 20 tubes = 2.3 minutes. (Watch the video!)
I know there are recipes “out there” that say to just use plain canned tomatoes or tomato passata for the topping (or bottled pasta sauce). I really, REALLY think it’s worth taking the little extra effort to make a simple pasta sauce. “Simple” being the operative word here. It’s just garlic + onion + crushed tomato + water, simmer for a bit, then stir through fresh basil or dried herbs at the end.
As for the Spinach Ricotta Filling? I could eat it raw. I kid you not. Straight out of the bowl. It’s that good. 🙂 There’s no secret ingredient in it (unless you count the optional nutmeg which I add to all such fillings), it’s just about getting the ratios of the ingredients right.
Oh – forgot to mention! For sheer convenience and because I’m totally brain washed by the whole “snap frozen” thing, I use frozen spinach. Someone (OK, a machine) has already gone to the trouble of cooking and chopping up all that spinach for me, so all I need to do is defrost and press out most of the extraordinary amount of liquid (do you drink it?? I DO!! 😂).
But I’ve added some notes in the recipe for how to make it with fresh (which I rarely do).
You can double the spinach in this, if you want. It can take it, plus you will use up an entire box of cannelloni tubes. They come in boxes of 30 here in Australia, and it is kind of annoying to end up with 10 or so floating around in the pantry, which then motivates me to make another batch just to use them up, then I end up with more tubes leftover so I have to make another batch.
If you haven’t already figured it out, I make Spinach Ricotta Cannelloni a lot. I love it. 🙂 – Nagi x
Juicy, perfectly seasoned spinach and ricotta filling inside cannelloni pasta tubes, topped with a simple, tasty tomato sauce and melted cheese. I use dried tubes which are quick to fill using a piping bag (2.3 minutes!) or you can use fresh lasagna sheets (though they will end up thicker and larger, I prefer using the tubes). Great for freezing once cooked. Recipe VIDEO below.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 garlic clove , finely chopped
- 1 small onion , finely chopped
- 800 g / 28 oz crushed tomato
- 1 cup water (swirl in tomato can to clean out)
- Handful basil leaves , torn, or 1 tsp dried herbs (e.g. Italian mix, oregano, thyme, basil)
- 250 g / 8 oz frozen chopped spinach , thawed (Note 1)
- 500 g / 1 lb ricotta , full fat please (Note 2)
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan
- 1 cup shredded cheese (Mozzarella, Colby, Cheddar, Tasty, Gruyere, Swiss)
- 1 egg
- 1 large garlic clove , minced
- Grated fresh nutmeg (just a sprinkling) or 1/8 tsp nutmeg powder (optional)
- Salt and pepper , to taste
- 18 - 22 dried cannelloni tubes (Note 3)
- 1 - 1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella
- More basil , for garnish (optional)
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and onion, cook for 2 - 3 minutes until translucent. Add tomato and water, stir then turn heat down to medium. Simmer for 5 minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper and stir through basil (or use dried herbs). Set aside.
Place spinach in a colander and press out most of the liquid (don't need to thoroughly squeeze dry).
Place Spinach in bowl with remaining Filling ingredients. Mix, taste, adjust salt and pepper to taste (different cheeses have different saltiness).
Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
Choose a baking pan which will comfortably fit about 20 cannelloni - mine is 21 x 26 cm / 8.5 x 10.5" (the base, edges are sloped outwards).
Spread a bit of Sauce on the base.
Transfer Filling to a piping bag with a large nozzle (that fits in the tubes), or use a strong ziplock bag. Or do this step using a knife (it's a bit tedious though!).
Pipe the filling into the tubes. Place in baking dish.
Pour over remaining Sauce, covering all the tubes. Cover with foil, then bake for 25 minutes.
Remove foil, scatter over cheese. Return to oven for 10 minutes until cheese is melted.
Serve, garnished with extra basil if desired.
1. I use frozen spinach for the convenience and also because I'm a sucker for the whole "snap frozen" thing. To use fresh, use about 500g/1 lb sliced spinach leaves or baby spinach leaves, saute with a little oil to wilt down and remove excess liquid. Cool then proceed with recipe.
2. Low fat ricotta is harder and drier, so it's more difficult to pipe into the tubes plus once baked, is not as juicy and moist.
3. The cannelloni tubes I use are the dried ones sold in boxes at supermarkets and delis. They are about 11 cm / 4.5" long and 2.5cm / 1" wide. They do not need to be boiled before cooking in the oven.
You can also make this using fresh lasagna sheets. Just roll Filling up inside, place in the baking pan seam side down. I prefer using dried tubes - refer in post for the reason why.
4. Best way to MAKE AHEAD: Cook covered per recipe without the cheese until the cannelloni is cooked (just jab it, you will easily be able to tell). Then leave it covered and cool and refrigerate. The sauce will dry out a bit so give it a little sprinkle of water (literally about 2 tbsp, dripped all over) plus a generous drizzle of olive oil, then cover with cheese, then bake for about 15 minutes at 160C/320F until it is reheated and the cheese is melted with some golden bits.
FREEZING: Cook per recipe, then let it cool, cover then freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw before reheating in the microwave or oven.
I do not recommend assembling then refrigerating before cooking, the pasta will likely bloat and leave you with a dry sauce.
5. Nutrition per serving, assuming 5 servings.
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
Spinach Ricotta Cannelloni recipe video! (Oh my Baby Hands…. these are the worst kind of recipe videos! 😂)
LIFE OF DOZER
Remember how I shared his current favourite toy – this squeaking emoji? Did I mention his favourite place to gnaw away at it? Smack bang in the middle of the new day bed. He literally plonks himself in the middle.
And please… someone remind me why I got a DARK GREY one??? 🙄