During my formative years in cooking - I mean, the really early days when I put my green potatoes on the window sill to ripen them - I went through a fairly serious vegetarian phase. It seemed safer than cooking meat.
This was one of my first dishes - and one of the most popular. In fact, if you don't mention it's vegetarian, most people won't spot it: it's not brown, it's not gack and for pasta seems to get away with being vegetarian.
In Australia, silverbeet is commonly
incorrectly called 'spinach' (and if you want spinach then ask for 'English spinach'). I understand silverbeet gets called 'Swedish chard' in other parts of the world. Either can be used in this recipe. The silverbeet tends to be stronger in flavour, but once you remove the thick, white stalk, the rest of the preparation is the same for both leaf types. That is, place the leaves in rapidly boiling water until the leaves wilt, no more than 10 seconds. Drain leaves.
There is a low-fat option, by replacing the ricotta with cottage cheese. Or, if the ricotta is replaced with tofu, it becomes a vegan meal.
I still get a lot of requests for this dish - probably because it is so versatile, healthy and yummy.
- 1 packet dry cannelloni tubes (12-16)
- 2 cups cooked spinach
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- Suggested Seasonings: salt, sugar, pepper, nutmeg
- 2 Tbsp pine nuts or sunflower seeds
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- crushed garlic, to taste
- 2 Tbsp oil
- Suggested Seasonings: salt, sugar, pepper, basil, thyme
- 2 cups tomato, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 4 Tbsp water
Pre-heat oven to 180°C (350°F).
Sauté the onion and garlic in the oil, until the onions are clear.
Add any seasonings then the tomato, vinegar and water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to simmer until the tomato is soft. Add more water if the sauce becomes too thick.
Roughly chop the spinach/silverbeet. Add it with all the other filling ingredients in a bowl. Mix until everything is evenly combined.
The fiddly bit is getting the filling into the cannelloni tubes. I use my clean hands, but you could use a piping bag, either way is pretty messy. Do not overfill the tubes because that will encourage breakage.
Place the filled tubes in a flat casserole dish as a single layer.
When all the tubes are in the dish, pour the sauce over the tubes. You can sprinkle cheese on the top.
Cook in moderate oven for 30-40 minutes.