[A]re you in a pasta rut? I know we are. Spaghetti Bolognaise, spaghetti with meatballs, lasagna… and repeat. I snapped last week. I couldn’t face another same-old-pasta dish. A while back, we went through a cannelloni phase and I can’t remember why we stopped making it. Everyone loved it – the tangy tomato sauce, the bubbling cheesy crust. It’s time for a cannelloni comeback but this time with a difference. I’ve been using sausagement with pasta for ages because it’s so quick and easy to squeeze out a few sausages to make speedy meatballs. Pork could definitely work with my cannelloni. So I went searching for recipes and stumbled across this post from one of my favourite food blogs, What Katie Ate.
My version has a few extra ingredients and, at its heart, is silky sweet butternut squash, which I don’t eat often enough, but find so comforting in winter. I used ricotta too, but I like the tangy salty punch of feta and I couldn’t have feta without pine nuts. They just seem to go together. I happened to have some fresh lasagna sheets in the fridge and of course, they were really easy to work with, and bigger than your average dried lasagna sheet, which helps. But in the interests of balance, I made up a mini cannelloni using some dried lasagna sheets, soaked in boiled water until soft. They were equally tasty, but if you can get fresh, you’ll find it easier to work with. Also, this could easily be a wonderful meat-free dish by simply using extra ricotta and feta and adding an egg.
There are several steps to this recipe, but they are quick and easy. My tip? This was so well received that it’s worth making a double batch once you’ve got your cannelloni production line set up. It’s the perfect winter warmer.
- olive oil
- 1 tin of tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon tomato sauce
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 400g of sausage meat (roughly equivalent to a pack of 6)
- handful of sage leaves, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano or mixed Italian herbs
- 100g ricotta cheese
- 75g feta cheese
- 1 large butternut squash
- pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 large handfuls of spinach
- 1 small handful of fresh basil
- 3 tablespoons of plain flour
- 600ml of milk
- 100g butter
- 150g grated cheese
- First, preheat your oven to 180C. Slice your butternut squash in half, lengthways and remove the seeds. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and a few chilli flakes, if you want to. Bake for 35-40 mins or until tender. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Once cool enough to handle, use a spoon to remove the soft baked butternut squash and set aside.
- Add half of your chopped onion to a pan with a little olive oil. Fry gently until soft, then add your spinach, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, basil, sage and dried herbs and cook until wilted. Remove from the heat.
- In a large bowl, add your sausagemeat, cooked onion, butternut squash, pine nuts, ricotta and feta. Season with salt and pepper. To combine, it really is easiest to use your hands, so get stuck in!
- If you are using dried lasagna sheets, now would be a good time to soak in boiled water. Move them around from time to time, to make sure they don't stick together.
- In a small pan, add your remaining chopped onion and fry gently until soft. Add your tin of tomatoes and the remaining crushed garlic cloves and the teaspoon of tomato sauce. I also like to add a splash of vinegar for extra tang. Once the pan has bubbled, remove from the heat and blend with a stick blender. Season to taste.
- Add your butter to a small non-stick pan and melt. Add the flour and cook through gently for a minute. Add a little milk and the mixture will form a clump. Keep adding the milk slowly, whilst beating and sauce will begin to form. Add milk until you are happy with the consistency and then add half of your grated cheese.
- This is the easy part. Spoon the mixture onto the middle of each lasagne sheet. I chose to lay it along the short side, so I could have more filling and more sheet to roll with. Roll each cannelloni up and place it into a greased baking dish, seam side down. Repeat until you have filled your dish. I prefer to make one line of cannellonis with space at each side, but some people like to pack them along the sides to fill the dish completely.
- Pour the tomato sauce over the cannelloni and allow to settle. Then pour over your bechamel sauce. Sprinkle over your grated cheese and bake for 30-40 mins until golden and bubbling.