As with many homemade pasta dishes, cannelloni with fresh tomato sauce makes a delicious main course suitable for family meals and guests alike. I chose to fill the cannelloni with a mixture of soft cheese, cooked spinach and lemon zest which I then topped with a simple homemade fresh tomato sauce. The quantities in the recipe below are sufficient for two servings but can easily be adjusted to make a larger quantity.
What you need to make cannelloni with fresh tomato sauce
For the pasta
- 100g plain flour (plus extra for rolling and dusting)
- 1 egg
- Pinch of salt
For the filling:
- 200g soft cheese such as ricotta or feta
- 100g spinach (uncooked weight)
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the sauce:
- 1 medium sized red onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- A small piece of dried chilli (optional)
- 500g fresh tomatoes
- Dash of olive oil
- 2 teaspoons herbs such as mixed herbs, herbs de Provence, basil, oregano, etc
- Salt and pepper
- Approximately 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan to sprinkle on top
Equipment needed to make cannelloni with fresh tomato sauce
- Chopping board
- Sharp knife
- Garlic press (optional)
- 2 large bowls (one to make the pasta and one to prepare the filling).
- 2 forks
- Grater or lemon zester
- Medium sized saucepan (to cook the spinach) plus steamer (optional)
- Pasta machine (or rolling pin and pastry board)
- Boards (to lay out the rolled pasta)
- 2 large pans (one to cook the pasta sheets and one to cook the tomato sauce)
- 20cm by 16cm ovenproof dish (to bake the cannelloni)
- Large slotted spoon to remove the cooked pasta sheets from the pan
- A bowl of cold water to cool the cooked pasta sheets
- Fish slice or long handled spoon to stir the sauce
How to make cannelloni with fresh tomato sauce
How to make the pasta for the cannelloni
The first thing to do is to make the pasta. The steps for making homemade pasta are set out, with photos, in an earlier post, homemade egg pasta (how to make pasta).
When the pasta is made and has been rolled out, cut into squares or rectangles. For a 20cm by 16cm baking dish I find that a size of 8cm by 10cm works well (with 8cm being the circumference of the cannelloni tube). If you are using a different sized dish then adjust the size and number of pasta sheets to suit your baking dish.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Drop the pasta sheets into the boiling water and cook for approximately 2 to 3 minutes until al dente.
Remove the cooked pasta rectangles from the pan and drop into a bowl of cold water. When they have cooled, drain the water and leave the pasta sheets to dry.
At this point, the pasta is ready to assemble the cannelloni. Alternatively, it can be frozen to use another day (freeze the sheets separately on a plastic board and then transfer to an airtight container to store in the freezer).
How to prepare the filling for the cannelloni
To make the filling, start by lightly steaming the spinach. This will only take a few minutes. Once cooked, set aside to cool. Squeeze any moisture of the spinach and then finely chop.
Next, crumble the soft cheese into a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, chopped spinach and a little salt and pepper and stir until evenly combined.
How to prepare the tomato sauce
Finely chop the onion and garlic (or use a garlic press). Finely chop the dried chilli (if using).
Roughly chop the tomatoes into chunks. It isn't necessary to remove the skins.
Gently cook the onion, garlic and chilli in the olive oil until soft. Add the chopped tomatoes, herbs and salt and pepper, stir and cook over a gently heat until the tomatoes have softened, this may take around 5 to 10 minutes or so. This should create a thick sauce with chunks of tomato ready to top the cannelloni.
How to assemble the cannelloni
Take a spoonful of the cheese and spinach mixture and form a compressed sausage shape on one piece of the pasta as in the photo below.
Roll the pasta over the filling to form a tube. There is no need to overlap the pasta, simply roll sufficiently to enclose the filling. Place seam down along one side of an ovenproof dish. Continue with the rest of the filling and pasta. The filled tubes should fill the base of the dish (one layer). It doesn't matter if the tubes turn out to be slightly different sizes as they will be covered by the sauce.
Spoon the prepared tomato sauce over the cannelloni tubes to completely cover the pasta.
Bake in the centre of the oven at 190oC, 375oF, gas mark 5 until cooked. This should take around 20 minutes approximately. You can check it is heated through by placing a skewer into the filling.
When cooked, remove from the oven and sprinkle the Parmesan over the top.
- As pasta making takes time and creates quite a bit of mess, I find that it is a good idea to make more pasta than you need for this recipe and freeze some for another day. The cooked pasta sheets will defrost very quickly at room temperature.
- Similarly, the tomato sauce can be made in bulk. It can be stored in the fridge for several days or can be frozen.
- The stuffed cannelloni should be served straight away. It is not suitable for reheating.
You may also like to try cheese and spinach ravioli. A homemade pasta dish made with pasta verde which is also great for family meals and guests alike.