Monday, 23 May 2016


My husband used to smoke. As a direct result his taste buds were not working properly anymore and he disliked vegetarian food. In fact, he disliked most foods. He wasn't fussy, don't get me wrong. He would eat everything which I would put in front of him but some dishes he simply wouldn't like at all. 19 months ago he gave up smoking for good and I am so proud of him. He was worried he would put on weight, he would binge eat, he would be cranky, grumpy etc etc etc. The truth is he was. He was cranky, grumpy etc etc etc but only for a couple of months. I made sure to prepare healthy snacks for him to take to work and stopped buying ready meals. We were not eating these a lot anyway, maybe once or twice a week. But his desire to eat better and feel better forced him to sign up with the local gym where he is now going for a swim 3 times a week. He quit having 7 cups of tea a day with 2 teaspoons of sugar each! (no, this is no joke!) and he started having packed lunch at work 3 times a week. I am sure you are wondering where I am going with this story. Well, vegetarian dishes are now my husband's favourites. Over the last year he has become a great fan of veggie lasagne, veggie quiches, simple dinners of salads with new potatoes, even vegetarian pizzas! And cannelloni is his absolute favourite. So every time I make it, which is on average once every couple of weeks, I make enough to serve 4. We have half of it for dinner and the rest goes into two Tupperware boxes in the freezer ready for him to enjoy in the middle of day when at work.


For the filling:
1 pack spinach (kale, cime di rapa....)
1 small onion
1 tub ricotta/quark
salt and pepper
a handful of grated cheese

White sauce:
25gr butter
25gr plain flour
about 300ml hot milk (plus more if needed)
a handful of grated cheese

12 cannelloni tubes
500gr passata

extra grated cheese to sprinkle on top


To make the filling:

Finely dice the onion and let it fry gently until soft and translucent. In the meantime wash and cut the spinach roughly, squeezing as much water as you can out of it. Add to the onion and stir for 2-3 minutes until it is just wilted. Turn off the heat and add the ricotta cheese, spices and the grated cheese. Stir until all is blended well, the grated cheese will melt from the heat. Leave to cool down for a bit.

White sauce:

Whilst the filling is cooling, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and some salt and stir until a roe is made. Add the hot milk (I always microwave mine for 2 minutes) to the pan and whisk vigorously for about a minute - you should end up with a nice smooth sauce. Let it thicken slightly, take off the heat and add the grated cheese to it. This dish is awesome as you can hide any mistakes you make! I made probably the worst white sauce I have ever made  - lumpy, lumpy, lumpy. I had no more milk otherwise I may have made a new one so I was forced to use it. The dish turned out just as good and you could never tell my sauce had any lumps in it!

Preheat your oven to 180C. You need a suitable dish which can hold the 12 tubes comfortably.
Pour half of the passata at the bottom of the dish. I add herbs to mine, whatever is in season or whatever I fancy that day. To fill the cannelloni - it is messy and there is no way round it. I used a piping bag - I cut quite a bit opening at the bottom. You will need to hold your tubes flat. I know it sounds tricky but it did work for me after the second one. Once all 12 tubes are filled arrange them into your dish. Pour over the rest of the tomato sauce. The cheese sauce is next - slowly pour it over, trying to cover as much of the tomato sauce as possible. Sprinkle with the last of the grated cheese and pop into the preheated oven for about half an hour. Serve warm and enjoy!

Desi in the Kitchen

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