Spinach and Cheese Cannelloni

Spinach and cheese cannelloni
Spinach and cheese cannelloni

Holy smokes, this spinach and cheese cannelloni is so good.  It is one of my (Kris’) all-time favorites.  The Loon used to not be so keen on soft ricotta cheese, but when I made these for him, he turned a new leaf.  These are great by themselves, but also work wonderfully as a ‘primi’ to your main Italian course.    You can even assemble these gems well ahead of serving time (up to a day), then pop in the oven before you are ready to serve, re-heat some of the sauce to top, and you’re good to go.   Of course, fresh homemade pasta is best here, but you can also cook up dried lasagna noodles, and then cut them to 4″x4″ squares, and they’ll work fantastic, as well.   This is satisfying and true authentic Italian!!  Go for it!

Spinach and Cheese Cannelloni

Course: Italian
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Cannelloni, Spinach
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 286 kcal
Author: Kris Longwell
This spinach and cheese cannelloni is just amazing. Make ahead of time and serve as your lead-in "primi" to your main Italian course. Real authentic Italian...so good!
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Ingredients

FOR THE SAUCE

  • 2 tbsp good-quality olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/2 lb Italian sweet sausage casings removed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 lb ground beef sirloin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes drained and chopped (San Marzano are my favorite)
  • 1 28 28 oz. can tomato puree
  • 6 fresh basil leaves roughly chopped

FOR THE FILLING

  • 1 lb spinach thick stems removed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 lb whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

ASSEMBLY

Instructions

MAKE THE SAUCE

  1. In a large skillet, over medium heat, warm the olive oil.
  2. Add the onion and saute until golden, 6 - 8 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, and cook for another minute.
  4. Stir in the sausage, beef, and a healthy pinch of salt and pepper.
  5. Cook, stirring and breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until meat is browned, about 7-8 minutes. At this point, if too much fat has rendered, tilt the skillet and remove excess with spoon (leave some, or all...it will incorporate as it cooks down).
  6. Add the tomatoes and puree, and simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 15 - 20 minutes.
  7. Stir in basil and set aside.

MAKE THE FILLING

  1. In a large saucepan, combine the spinach, 1/4 cup water, and a pinch of salt.
  2. Cover and turn heat to medium. Spinach will be piled high, but will quickly wilt down.
  3. Cook until tender, about 3 - 4 minutes.
  4. Drain the spinach and let cool, then squeeze out the excess liquid.
  5. Chop the spinach.
  6. In a bowl, stir together the spinach, ricotta, eggs, and 1 cup of the cheese.
  7. Season with salt and pepper (about a pinch each).
  8. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

PREPARE THE PASTA

  1. Make fresh pasta sheets, boil for about 2 minutes...gently drain water and place sheets on board and cut 4"x4" squares with a pizza cutter. OR, boil dried lasagna noodles (according to package instructions), drain, and cut 4"x4" squares.

ASSEMBLE AND FINISH THE DISH

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375F.
  2. Spread a thin layer of the sauce in the bottom of two 9x13-inch baking dishes.
  3. Lay a pasta square on a work surface, spoon about 3 tablespoons of the filling down one end of the square, and then roll into a tube.
  4. Place the tube, seam side down, in one of the prepared dishes.
  5. Fill the remaining pasta squares in the same way and arrange them in the dishes.
  6. Spread the remaining sauce on top of the rolls, dividing evenly between the dishes.
  7. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top.
  8. Bake the cannelloni until sauce and cheese are bubbling, about 40 minutes.

 

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