Traditional Ricotta and Spinach Cannelloni with Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce
Updated: Nov 13, 2021
I will not sell you a fairy tale. I promise. I'm always tempted to do so but it's a lie and I won't stand for inauthenticity anymore! I have been to Italy thrice in my life. I have mildly enjoyed Italy twice in my life and thoroughly did not enjoy it the first time. If any Italians are reading this, 90% of the onus is on me, completely, I recognise that. I am no blind piece of pink-and-porcelain trash.
Let's set the scene shall we? I am lactose-intolerant, sensitive to white carbs, sensitive to wine, bloat at the mere sight of garlic, and love just about all of those things. Coincidentally, so does Italy. Let's say, for arguments-sake, that the last time I travel to Italy I'll be going as a third wheel to my sister and her partner who just bloody love to walk. Let's add into the cocktail the fact that my back can hardly handle the bloat from a small glass of milk. Are you starting to get the picture?
Italy is beautiful but she has been unkind to me. My lower back gave out one trip, I got severely sunburnt another, I slept in a pool of sweat in Milan on the first, and I endured constipation all three times. But what she did give me, was the best parmesan experiences of my life. So for that, I am forever indebted to her and I'll forgive all of the other things.
If you are a massive ricotta fan, go heavy on the ricotta, it's a very forgiving dish in that sense.
Don't talk to me if you are using dried basil...No. but seriously, this dish is simple because it thrives off of each ingredient, don't skip out on the basil, it provides some much needed freshness.
If you can't find cannelloni use large shells and just spoon the filling into the shells. Lay them on to your sauce open towards you.
You can replace the sugar with honey if you aren't eating any refined sugars!
If you prefer a more Americanised version of things (not my cup of tea for this but who am I to judge) you can add some shredded mozzarella into the ricotta filling.
A teaspoon of lemon zest can go a long way in the filling if you are so inclined!
If you can afford more cherry tomatoes - use 8 cups of cherry tomatoes for the sauce. If you can't afford them, cans of chopped tomatoes work as perfect substitute.
16 cannelloni tubes
6 cups of fresh cherry tomatoes, halved
400g can of chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of caster sugar
4 tablespoons of crushed garlic
1 tablespoon of salt
1 teaspoon of cracked black pepper
500 grams of fresh ricotta
4 cups of baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 cup of grated parmesan
1/2 cup of fresh, chopped basil
Preheat your oven to 190℃. Place your cherry tomatoes cut-side up in an oven-proof dish. Keep the dish crowded, don't spread the tomatoes out. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the tomatoes. Sprinkle your sugar and salt over the tomatoes and then put them in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
Meanwhile you can make your filling for the cannelloni. Place a tablespoon of olive oil into a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Once glistening, add in 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic. When the garlic becomes fragrant (about 1-2 minutes) add in your chopped spinach and wilt down until the spinach reduces to a quarter of it's original size (about 2-3 minutes).
Remove the spinach and place in a bowl to cool. Once the spinach is cool to the touch, mix in 450 grams of your ricotta, your cracked black pepper, your egg, 1/4 cup of parmesan, and 1/4 cup of basil until fully combined.
Using either a piping bag or a teaspoon, fill your cannelloni tubes completely with the ricotta and spinach mixture. Set them aside.
Place the last tablespoon of olive oil in your frying pan over a medium-high heat. Once glistening, add in the last of the crushed garlic and cook until fragrant. Then add in your roasted cherry tomatoes and, using the back of your spoon, break them down a little. Add in your can of chopped tomatoes. After about 3 minutes remove the pan from the heat.
Spoon half of your sauce onto the bottom of a shallow baking dish. Place your cannelloni on top of the sauce. Spoon the remaining sauce over the cannelloni. The sauce should almost cover them completely, leaving the tops peaking through.
Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and bake at 200℃ for 25-30 minutes.
Once out of the oven, top with fresh basil and ricotta.