The only vegetarian in my family is my sister’s boyfriend and when I first made this dish he never got a second helping as the carnivores in the family finished off the rest of the dish – most people love pasta. I enjoy filled pastas – there is a different flavour and taste in every mouthful. Man’s creativeness always fascinates me – if you take the simple pasta and see the different types and shapes created over the centuries – food can never be boring.
In the Italian language, cannelloni translates to big pipes or big reeds – this is apt as the pasta is tube shaped like a big pipe. Cannelloni was invented by a chef, Nicola Federico, in 1907, while working at a restaurant La Favorita in Sorrento, Italy. Cannelloni has become a staple in Italian kitchens worldwide. Dare I say popular in my kitchen as well.
Filled pasta might be a bit time consuming to prepare but end result is worthwhile – this is a very tasty dish and there will not be any left overs.
SPINACH BUTTERNUT AND FETA CANNELLONI
80ml olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
500gr butternut, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 packet or bunch spinach, washed and trimmed
200gr feta cheese
2ml freshly ground nutmeg
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cans plum tomatoes, chopped
15ml fresh basil (5ml dried)
10ml fresh oregano (3ml dried)
16-20 cannelloni tubes
500ml ready-made cheese sauce (*recipe below)
250ml grated mozzarella cheese
Heat 50ml of the olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the onion for 2 minutes.
Add the butternut and stir well. Cover with a lid and cook over a low to medium heat for about 10 minutes until the butternut is almost tender. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
Add the spinach and put the lid on the saucepan to allow the spinach to steam. Once it has wilted, remove from the heat.
Gently stir in the feta cheese and nutmeg.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a saucepan and add the garlic.
Stir for 30 seconds, add the tomatoes, herbs and 210ml water.
Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer with the lid off for 10 minutes.
Season to taste with salt, a little sugar and freshly ground black pepper, then spoon into
a greased baking pan.
Spoon the butternut filling into the cannelloni tubes, making sure they are full.
Place the tubes into the tomato sauce.
Pour the cheese sauce over the tubes and sprinkle with the mozzarella.
Cook in a preheated oven at 180 C for about 30 minutes until tender and golden.
Melt 60gr butter in a pan. Add 60ml cake flour and stir for 1 minute. Gradually add 500ml milk stirring continuously. Stir over a medium heat until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in 150ml grated Cheddar cheese and season to taste.