As you may have noticed by now, I like to try and use up as much food as possible from in the fridge and pantry before heading to the grocery or produce store...I find this is just another way to avoid wasting things. When there is new food to use, the old stuff seems to get overlooked. So before heading out, I used up the last of the ricotta, bocconcini and spinach to make the filling for these cannelloni.
Start off by wilting washed fresh spinach. I used one large bunch of spinach, and ended up with about 1 cup of cooked spinach, which I roughly chopped. If you are wilting your own spinach, or using frozen spinach, remember to always squeeze out as much excess water as possible.
Next, dice half a medium onion, and cook it in a bit of olive oil until it starts to soften. Season with salt and pepper.
12 ounces of sausage, removed from the casings
2 cloves garlic, minced
Cook, breaking the sausage up, until it is cooked through. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
In a large bowl, combine the cheese:
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup bocconcini, diced
a good handful of grated Parmesan
To the cheese, add:
the chopped cooked spinach
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Add the cooked, cooled sausage and onion. Mix well to combine.
Taste, and adjust seasoning.
Cook 12 cannelloni shells in a large pot of salted, boiling water. Drain and run under cold water to stop them from overcooking. It also makes it easier to hold and stuff them!!
Using some of the 2 cups of Basic Tomato Sauce,
lightly cover the bottom of a 9" X 13" ovenproof dish.
Using your fingers, stuff the filling into the shells, dividing it as evenly as possible. Be careful not to overstuff and split the pasta shell.
Place the filled shells into the prepared dish.
Using the rest of the Basic Tomato Sauce , cover the cannelloni shells.
Sprinkle grated mozzarella over the top.
Bake at 350F until the filling is heated through, the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is golden.
- The sausage I used was the beef, onion and sundried tomato sausage that we had made on our second sausage making adventure. It had a lot of flavour in it already, so I relied on that for my filling. If you are using a flavourful sausage such as hot Italian or chorizo, you can do the same. If your sausage, or plain ground beef, is blander, then you need to make sure you season the filling well.
- If you choose to use plain ground beef (or any other ground meat) think of using herbs such as basil, oregano, parsley or rosemary. Add spices such as fennel seeds, cayenne pepper or chili flakes, or even smoked paprika.
- I used bocconcini because there were a few left in the container, and I wanted to use them up. Grated mozzarella is a good substitute.
- Add extra vegetables to the pan when cooking the onion...diced zucchini, red peppers or mushrooms.
- If you use the cannelloni shells that are 'oven ready' don't forget to thin the Basic Tomato Sauce with extra water; this helps the pasta to cook in the oven.
- If you have access to fresh pasta sheets, either homemade or purchased, they do not need to be cooked before being stuffed. Cut a piece about 6" long for each cannelloni. Place the filling along one short edge, and simply roll it up. Place seam side down in the dish.
- The sauce can be changed from plain tomato sauce to a combination of tomato sauce and bechamel sauce; you can use cream, with or without Basil Pesto.
- Some other filling ideas for cannelloni include roasted and mashed butternut squash, roasted garlic, cooked onion and goat cheese; diced grilled vegetables, ricotta cheese and pesto; mushrooms cooked with garlic and thyme, diced cooked chicken, ricotta cheese and cooked spinach.
- Use the filling to make ravioli, either with fresh pasta sheets, or gyoza wrappers. Cut the pasta sheets into small squares (the gyoza will stay round), brush the edges with a bit of water, place a spoonful of filling in the centre and then top with a second square of pasta. Gently press the edges to seal, eliminating as much air as possible. Be careful not to overstuff them.
- The filling can be made ahead and frozen; the cannelloni can be stuffed and frozen. Defrost before baking.