A-Z of Making Pasta Shapes: Cannelloni

Updated: Dec 17, 2021

Cannelloni are big stuffed pasta tubes widespread throughout Italy. The most common version used in Italy is factory-made pre-shaped dry tubes, ready to be stuffed and baked without being pre-boiled. But you can also hand-make them. Let's see how...


Cannelloni is usually made with flour and eggs and stuffed with a rich ragu', seafood, or spinach and cheese, covered with bechamel and Parmigiano and baked in the oven.


To be honest, I have never had cannelloni in a restaurant in Italy. For me, it is a dish to be made on a very special occasion.

I have sweet memories of early Sunday mornings waking up to the smell of the ragu' my mother was making for cannelloni. She made a thick ragu' with minced beef and pork, frozen peas, pine nuts, and tomato. We would stuff the cannelloni and cover them with a simple tomato sauce, bechamel and Parmigiano. When we made cannelloni, it was always to celebrate a birthday, or it meant that we would be having guests for lunch — still one of the best food memories that I have till today.

Today, my recipe is Cannelloni stuffed with spinach and ricotta, baked with a simple tomato sauce, a lighter version that best suits these hot days in Melbourne.



Where to find Cannelloni in Melbourne?

If you can't be bothered making them, head to Casa di Tutti in Seddon to try their cannelloni stuffed with spinach, ricotta, tomato, and cheese; you won't be disappointed!


SPINACH & RICOTTA CANNELLONI


Makes 5 serves

Pasta dough:

  • 300g (1 + ½ cup) 00 flour, or all-purpose flour

  • 3 large eggs

  • Semolina flour, for dusting

Tomato sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 small brown onion, diced

  • 400g (1 tin) tinned tomatoes

  • 1 fresh chili, indented and left whole

  • 300ml (1 cup) water

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  • 1 handful of fresh basil leaves


Filling:

  • 4 cups spinach, roughly chopped

  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  • 300g whole milk ricotta

  • 1 egg

  • ¾ cups of Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg, grated

  • 1 lemon zest, finely grated (optional)

  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped

  • salt and black pepper, to taste

Tools needed:

- pasta machine

- a knife to cut cannelloni

- a medium pot for cooking the sauce

- a baking tray


Making the dough:

Place the flour in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into it.

Gently combine eggs with flour using a fork from the middle outwards.

With your hands, gradually incorporate the flour from the outside of the well toward the centre, kneading gently until the mass of dough comes together.

Put the dough on a wooden surface and knead it until it is smooth and resilient.

You may need to add more flour, or you may not be able to incorporate all of the flour, depending on the humidity and the size of the eggs. If the dough is sticky or extremely pliable, knead in more flour.

Work the mass of dough with your hands to develop the gluten in the flour for about 10-15 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic.

Using the heel of your hand, push the dough down and away from you, fold it in half back toward you, rotate a quarter turn, and repeat the kneading motion.

Wrap it and place it in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour before using it.



Making the tomato sauce:

As your dough is resting, cook the tomato sauce and make the ravioli filling.

Saute the onion in the oil until it is soft and translucent. Next, add the tomatoes and fresh chili. The chili should add a touch of sweetness to the sauce. Finally, add the water bringing it all to a boil. Season with salt and black pepper and cook for about 20 minutes.

Once cooked, discard the chili and add the fresh basil leaves.


Making the filling:

Saute the spinach with garlic and oil, cook until just wilted. Drain and set aside to cool.

Mix the ricotta with the egg, Parmigiano cheese, nutmeg, lemon zest, parsley, and seasoning.

Add the cooled spinach and mix to combine.

Rest in the fridge to firm up for 30 minutes.

Rolling the pasta dough:

After the resting time, dust the work surface with some extra flour, cut 1/3 of the dough, and press it out flat with your fingertips. Wrap again the dough you are not using and set it aside.

Set the pasta machine at its widest setting (usually '0', but it depends on the kind of machine you use).

Pass the dough through the rollers once, then fold the resulting strip into thirds.

Roll the pasta dough through the widest setting three times till your dough has an even rectangular shape and is smooth. Lightly dust the pasta with flour if it is at all sticky.

Narrow the setting of the pasta machine to position '1' and roll the dough through.

Continue passing the dough through the rollers, reducing the thickness by one setting each time until it reaches the desired thickness. It should now be very delicate, elastic to the touch, and slightly translucent.

Roll the pasta as thinly as you desire (I would use 7 out of 9, but it depends on the machine you have).

Cut the pasta sheet into 10x14cm rectangles. Dust with semolina flour, cover with a towel, and set aside.


Assembling the dish:

Put a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce over the base of the cannelloni dish.



Fill each pasta rectangle with 2-3 tablespoons of filling.



Roll the pasta sheet to enclose the filling and place it seam side down on the dish. Repeat with the remaining ingredients until one layer of cannelloni is complete.

Cover the layer of cannelloni with the tomato sauce so that each pasta roll is nicely covered.

Bake at 200°C for 25 minutes.

If you prefer, sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese and mozzarella. Drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil—grill for a further 5 minutes or until nicely browned on top.

Rest at room temperature for 15 minutes covered, then serve.





Making ricotta & spinach cannelloni
During a cooking class with my students.


Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni. Printable version
.pdf
Download PDF • 365KB


 

THE A-Z OF MAKING PASTA SHAPES



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The A-Z of Making Pasta Shapes series is well underway on my social platforms, and I'm already having so much fun teaching you how to make pasta shapes. Have you managed to join in? I hope so, but if not, here's a recap.

Every week I share how to make particular pasta shapes corresponding with letters of the alphabet. Every letter will represent one or more pasta shapes. So far, I've covered A for Agnolotti, B for Blecs and for Busiate, and I'm esploring the letter C this week by showing you how to make Cannelloni.


Tune in to @_pastajourney_ social posts and stories to discover the best pasta recipes and how to perfect the shapes.



FIND THE A-Z OF MAKING PASTA SHAPES HERE AND HERE


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