It’s really REALLY cold here. Bitter. Wet. Icy. Windy. Needless to say I’m avoiding leaving the snugly fires of our house as much as possible, even to go shopping. And being the frugal month of January I’m attempting a fridge, freezer and cupboard blow out using up a whole host of lurking need-to-be-used ingredients. On a recent inspection I handily discovered a tub of almost-out-date ricotta as well as a ball of just-out-of-date mozzarella, dried cannelloni that I’ve had for too long to mention, frozen spinach that somehow never gets used in our house and frozen chopped tomatoes that are still cramming up the freezer from last summer’s enormous glut, plus some pumpkin (I still have six to munch through!) and a random red pepper. So I set to to make stuffed cannelloni placating any requirement to leave the confines of Chez Foti and brave the weather.
So a vegged and healthied-up version (I can’t help it!) of a Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni (flavoured with a little Parmesan and Nutmeg) was born, covered with oodles of Tomato Sauce enriched with Celery, Carrot, Pumpkin & Pepper. Then topped with a little Mozzarella and Parmesan and baked in the oven. And the kids ate it. Even enjoyed it. Admittedly not without a good deal of ‘encouragement’ at first, but that was to do with the off-putting (to them) abundance of green in the cannelloni, which on tasting they did actually like. Job done. Oodles of veggies filling those precious wee tummies. And one happy Mummy. And us grown up folk enjoyed it too!
Incidentally this is a great tommie sauce to serve on it’s own with pasta, I’ve been making a version of it (Kids 5-a-day Pasta Sauce) for years for my monsters and they always love it. It’s also a great way of ‘healthying-up’ a homemade pizza, and they’ll never know!
I’m entering my blog, for the first ever time to the first ever Pasta Please, a monthly blogging event held by Jacqueline of the wonderfully inspirational Vegetarian blog Tinned Tomatoes. This month’s theme happens to be Cheese and since my dish contains a trio of Ricotta, Mozzarella and Parmesan I think I qualify!
Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni with Hidden Veggies Tommie Sauce
Perfect for Toddlers and Young Children, Bigger Kids, Family Dinners, Mid-Week Suppers
Serves 4 hearty appetites (or a family of 4 with plenty of tasty leftovers):
For the Hidden Veggie Tommie Sauce:
a tablespoon of Olive Oil
a small Onion, diced
2 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
a large Carrot*, diced
a stick or two of Celery*, diced
200g of Pumpkin or Squash*, diced
half a Red Pepper*, diced
600g of Chopped Tomatoes (a can and a half)
a heaped dessertspoon of Tomato Puree
130ml of water
a teaspoon of dried Oregano or a dessertspoon of chopped fresh Oregano
Salt & Pepper
a pinch of Sugar
* Please use whatever veggies you happen to have in, though to aid your disguise it’s best to stick to neutral or orange/red coloured ones!
For the Stuffed Cannelloni:
160g of dried Cannelloni
350g of frozen Spinach, defrosted (or finely shredded and steamed fresh spinach)
a 250g tub of Ricotta
40g of Parmesan (or Grana Padano), finely grated
a large pinch of Nutmeg
a large pinch of Black Pepper
a squeeze or two of Lemon juice
For the Topping:
a 125g ball of Mozzarella
30g of Parmesan (or Grana Padano), finely grated
Pre-heat your oven to 190ºC.
Start with making your sauce. Heat the oil in a saucepan on a medium heat and add the onion. Fry for 5 minutes before adding the garlic and all other veggies bar the tomatoes.
After 10 minutes throw in the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, dried oregano (if using), water and a pinch each of pepper, salt and sugar. No salt for very little littlies! Allow to simmer away for 20 minutes or until all the veggies are very tender.
Once cooked take off the heat and stir in the fresh oregano (if using). Blitz the sauce with a stick blender or in a processor until smooth. Taste and season if necessary.
Meanwhile prep the cannelloni. Mix together the spinach, ricotta, parmesan, nutmeg and pepper. Season with a squeeze or two of lemon juice. Now for the messy business of filling up the cannelloni tubes!. I found a very good tip on Jamie Oliver’s site of using a plastic bag with a snipped corner to pipe the filling in. It worked wonderfully and was no fiddle at all.
Place your filled cannelloni in the bottom of a greased (with a little olive oil) small baking tray or oven dish. The pasta should fit snugly.
Now smother in the Tommie Sauce. Top with the mozzarella slices and the parmesan. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 35 to 40 minutes until the pasta’s cooked through and the cheese golden and bubbling on the top.
Go eat. My kids ate there’s as is, but us grown up folk had a simple green salad on the side.
Here’s some of my other spectacularly well Hidden-Veggie dinners that go down well with the wee folk!:Kids Bolognese Super-Seasonally Vegged-Up Cottage Pie Cheese, Courgette & Tomato Bread & Butter Pudding Chicken & Apricot Tagine Chicken, Veggie & Egg Fried Rice Super-Vegged Up Chilli Kids Fish Pie Noodles with Pork & Veggies Cream of Veggie Super Soup Sunday Dinner Leftover Cakes