From The New Spanish Table. According to the author, though cannelloni may have their origins in Italy, they have become something of a Catalan national dish. Rather than ricotta fillings and tomato-based sauces, Catalon cannelloni dishes can be filled with fish, ground meat or spinach. No-boil lasagna noodles can be used in place of cannelloni squares. I love the raisins in this, but they're the only thing my son doesn't like about it, so go with your own best judgments about family preferences.
- 2 (10 ounce) packages fresh spinach (or 16-oz frozen)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1⁄4 cup pine nuts
- 7 -8 tablespoons dark raisins (or less if you prefer) or 7 -8 tablespoons golden raisins (or less if you prefer)
- 2 -3 ounces sliced ham (may also use prosciutto, but really tasty) (optional)
- coarse salt
- 3 1⁄2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 1⁄2 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 8 sheets fresh pasta (or no-boil lasagna noodles without curly edges)
- 1 1⁄4 cups grated parmesan cheese
- If using fresh spinach, rinse but do not drain. Cook, covered in a large saucepan over medium heat in the water clinging to the leaves, till wilted, about 4-5 minutes, stirring a few times.
- Transfer the spinach to a colander and drain, when cool enough to handle, squeeze out the excess moisture. finely chop the spinach. (if using frozen, thaw and press out excess moisture).
- Heat 2 T of the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat.
- Add the garlic, pine nuts, raisins and ham, if using, and cook till the pine nuts and garlic are golden, 3-5 minutes.
- Add the chopped spinach and cook for about 1 minute, stirring to distribute all the ingredients evenly.
- Season the spinach with salt and pepper to taste, transfer it to a bowl and set aside.
- Melt the butter with the remaining 1 T olive oil in a heavy, medium sized saucepan over medium low heat.
- Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking for about 2 minutes.
- Add the milk in a steady stream, and bring to a boil over high heat, whisking constantly.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer, whisking occasionally, till the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes.
- Stir in the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Set about 1/2 cup of the spinach mixture aside.
- To finish off the filling, stir 2/3 cup of the sauce into the remaining spinach, set the rest of the sauce aside.
- Preheat oven to 400°F; lightly butter a 12x9 gratin dish or shallow ceramic baking dish.
- Bring 5-6 quarts water to a boil over high heat.
- Place a large bowl of ice water next to the pot.
- Working in two batches, boil the sheets of pasta, stirring to separate them, till al dente - about 2 minutes for fresh pasta and about 6 minutes for no boil lasagna noodles.
- Using tongs, transfer the noodles to the ice water to stop the cooking.
- Lift the noodles from the water, shaking off excess and lay them flat on a dry linen towel.
- Repeat with the remaining pasta, bringing the water back to a rolling boil before adding the second batch.
- Pat the pasta dry with paper towels before filling it.
- Place about 1/4 cup of the spinach filling close to one end of a noodle (if using lasagna, use the long end), shaping it into a compact log.
- Starting with a long end, roll up the noodle, then cut it in half crosswise.
- Place the filled noodles seam side down in the prepared dish.
- Repeat with remaining noodles and filling.
- The filled noodles should fit snugly in a single layer.
- Stir the reserved 1/2 cup of spinach and any of the filling you may have left over into the served sauce and spread evenly over the cannelloni.
- Sprinkle the cheese evenly on top.
- Bake till the cannelloni are hot and the top is browned and bubbly, about 25 minutes.
- If you'd like the top more browned, pass the dish under the broiler for a few minutes.
- Let cool for a few minutes then serve straight from the baking dish.