We promise, the effort it takes to make this super-tasty cannelloni is well worth it
by Lindsay Evans
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We're not going to lie, this spinach and ricotta cannelloni is not a breeze to make. But, we can promise you that the effort you put into making this seriously fresh and tasty pasta dish, will be well worth your while. Kind of like lasagna (but trust us, way better), this cannelloni is bursting with fresh and healthy ingredients like baby spinach, lemon zest and an awesome tomato basil sauce (yes, that you make). How it differs from that old-school cannelloni (that your grandma used to make), is that we've used fresh baby spinach leaves instead of that liquid-drenched box from the freezer section, we've replaced those awkward dried cannelloni tubes with convenient fresh lasagna noodles -- no pre-boiling required -- and we've topped it all off with ultra-indulgent buffalo mozzarella instead of the regular old grated variety. The result? A super-tasty, lively and fresh baked pasta dish that you'll want to make and eat again and again and again....
→ Love pasta? Check out these 5 fast & fresh pasta recipes.
Quick Tomato Basil Sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp dried oregano
Generous pinch red chili flakes (optional)
2 cans whole tomatoes with juices; use San Marzano Tomatoes if available
Splash of red wine or balsamic vinegar
Handful fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
Spinach & Ricotta Filling:
2 containers traditional ricotta cheese
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp each sea salt and pepper
4 handfuls baby spinach leaves
16 fresh lasagna sheets
2 buffalo mozzarella balls, sliced or torn into chunks, or about 2 cups grated mozzarella
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
To make tomato sauce, heat olive oil in a large heavy saucepan. Add shallot and sauté 5 to 7 minutes, until soft and fragrant. Add oregano and chili flakes and stir for 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, red wine and basil. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring often. If sauce becomes too thick, add a little water to loosen.
To make spinach ricotta filling, stir together ricotta, egg, lemon zest, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add spinach leaves and stir in until well combined.
To assemble cannelloni, spread about half of your tomato sauce into the bottom of a rectangle casserole dish. Lay one sheet of lasagna on a clean flat surface. Spoon some filling (approximately 2 to 3 tbsp) along the bottom edge of the sheet and then roll into a cigar. Seal ends together with a little water. Place, seal side down, on top of the sauce, fitting it snugly against one side of casserole dish. Repeat with remaining sheets of lasagna, using up all of the filling. Once all the cannelloni have been fitted snugly into the casserole dish, pour remaining tomato sauce over top and spread to the edges. Lay slices of fresh buffalo mozzarella over top of sauce and sprinkle generously with freshly grated Parmesan.
Bake in a 400 F oven for 35 to 45 minutes, until cheese is golden and bubbly. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.