Spinach and Cheese Cannelloni

Cannelloni can be assembled (but not baked) 1 day ahead and chilled, covered with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes[ before baking. Remaining sauce will need to be thinned slightly.]

Total Time:
1 hr 15 min
Prep:
15 min
Cook:
1 hr

Yield:
4 servings
Level:
Intermediate

Ingredients
  • Sauce:
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 ounce finely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1/3 cup)
  • Cannelloni:
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 10 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 3/4 cups ricotta (12 ounces fresh or 15 ounces supermarket-style)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ounce finely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 cup)
  • 8 (6- by 4-inch) fresh pasta rectangles or 8 oven-ready (sometimes labeled no-boil) Lasagna noodles
  • Special equipment: a 13 by 9 by 2-inch ceramic baking dish or other shallow 3-quart flameproof baking dish (not glass)
Directions
  • To make the sauce: Melt butter in a 1 1/2 to 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat. Whisk in flour and cook the roux, whisking, 2 minutes. Add the milk in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil over high heat, whisking constantly (sauce will thicken). Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 2 minutes, then whisk in salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Remove from heat and whisk in cheese, then cover pan.

  • To make the cannelloni: Heat oil in a 5 to 6-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then saute onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and saute, stirring, until just wilted, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.

  • Stir together ricotta, egg, parsley, prosciutto, if using, salt, pepper, and 1/3 cup cheese in a bowl, then stir in spinach mixture.

  • Boil pasta 2 pieces at a time in a 6 to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water, stirring to separate, until just tender, about 2 minutes for fresh pasta or about 6 minutes for oven-ready noodles. Gently transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of cold water to stop cooking, then remove from bowl, shaking off water, and lay flat in between layers of plastic wrap. (Trim oven-ready noodles, if using, as closely as possible to 6 1/4 by 5 1/2-inch rectangles.)

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

  • Spread 2/3 cup sauce in buttered baking dish. Spread about 1/3 cup ricotta filling in a line along 1 short side of 1 pasta rectangle, then roll up to enclose filling. Transfer, seam side down, to baking dish. Make 7 more cannelloni in same manner, arranging snugly in 1 layer. Spread 1/2 cup more sauce over cannelloni and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake, covered with foil, in middle of oven until sauce is bubbling, about 20 minutes.

  • Turn on broiler.

  • Remove foil and broil cannelloni about 5 inches from heat until lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Reheat remaining sauce and serve on the side.


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