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Cannelloni with Spinach & Spicy Red Sauce

Cannelloni with Spinach & Spicy Red Sauce


For the sauce and to bake:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)

  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 4 tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste

  • ½ teaspoon superfine sugar or honey

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1 tablespoon Calabrian chili paste, or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • ½ cup red vermouth or red wine

  • One 15-ounce can Italian crushed tomatoes

  • 2 cups passata or tomato puree

  • One handful fresh basil leaves, torn

  • Salt, to taste

  • About ½ pound sliced or shredded mozzarella

  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

  • Chopped flat-leaf parsley

For the spinach cheese filling and pasta:

  • One 16-ounce bag frozen chopped spinach or 2 bunches trimmed medium-leaf spinach, stemmed and blanched in salted water

  • 2 cups ricotta cheese, sheep or cow's milk

  • 2 cloves garlic, grated or minced

  • 1 cup small-dice fresh mozzarella

  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

  • 1 egg

  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

  • Salt and white pepper

  • 16 square-flat fresh lasagna sheets (or trim long flat dry sheets after cooking to 4 to 5 inches each) 


Serves: 4 to 6

For the sauce, in a medium pot or deep skillet, heat EVOO over medium heat and add chopped garlic, stir a minute or 2, add tomato paste, sugar or honey, oregano, red pepper paste or flakes, vermouth or wine and let it absorb, stir in crushed tomatoes, passata and basil, season with a little salt and simmer to combine flavors.

Bring water to boil for pasta.

For the filling, wring out all the excess liquid from the spinach and place in bowl, then combine with ricotta, grated garlic, diced mozzarella, nutmeg, lightly beaten egg, grated cheese, and salt and white pepper.

For the pasta, cook 5 minutes in salted boiling water and arrange sheets between parchment paper and top with a kitchen towel.

Pour a layer of red sauce into bottom of each of 2 medium or 1 large casserole.

Place about 4 tablespoons of filling on one edge of pasta sheet. Roll up and arrange cannelloni seam-side down and top with more sauce.  Top rolled pasta with shredded mozzarella, Parm and parsley.

Preheat oven to 375˚F with rack at center.

Cover casserole with foil and roast 30 minutes, uncover and bake 15 minutes to brown and bubbly.