Pumpkin, Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni
Aghhh cannelloni!! Phallic pasta parcels filled with oodles of soft ricotta cheese. They're glorious! Call me odd, but I went straight to this option at Italian restaurants growing up, as it was never something we bothered to make at home. When I was about 14 I went on a cannelloni making craze. Making it for every special occasion. Turns out it's bloomin' easy. But especially so, if you use fresh pasta sheets, as you just have to roll up the filling, as opposed to getting RSI from stuffing it into hard shells you pray will not break under your nimble-fingered pressure. So know that if you use hard shells you may find your patience waning, but even still it's a totally do-able dish with dang-delicious results. We make the ricotta with tofu and it really does taste close to the real deal. So let's get cooking!
- 3 cups butternut pumpkin, cubed (can use another variety, but the water content in butternut pumpkin is just right)
- olive oil
- salt & pepper
- 1/2 onion, finely diced
- 2 large handfuls spinach, shredded
- handful grated vegan cheese (preferably cheddar/parmesan)
- 350ml (approx.) tomato passata
- 20 (approx.) cannelloni sheets/fresh pasta sheets (GF if desired)
- handful of vegan cheese (any that melts well)
- 300g film tofu, drained & patted dry
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp vegan butter
- 1 tbsp plain flour (GF or not)
- 1/2 tsp vegetable stock powder
- 1 1/4 cup unsweetened soy milk
- 1/4 cup coconut milk
- pinch nutmeg
- salt & pepper
- Preheat your oven to 180C. Grab a lined baking tray and toss the pumpkin cubes on it with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt & pepper. Lay your cubes flat and cook in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until tender & lightly golden.
- Make the ricotta by pulsing all the Ricotta ingredients in a food processor until it resembles a ricotta consistency (aka a fine crumb). Scrape the ricotta into a large mixing bowl.
- In a small saucepan, sauté the onion in a little olive oil until soft. Add the spinach and add a tsp or two of water. Cover with the lid turn the heat to low. Let the spinach wilt for about 3 minutes. Once wilted add to the ricotta mixture. Add the vegan cheese to the bowl as well.
- Once the pumpkin is cooked, use a fork to mash each individual piece (while on the tray). Tip the mashed pumpkin bits into the bowl and mix all the filling ingredients together thoroughly. Season with pepper, stir and set aside.
- To make your béchamel, take a small saucepan and add the butter. Once melted and bubbling, add in the flour and vegetable stock powder and stir with a wooden spoon quickly to combine into a roux. Stir for a minute or two. Switch to a whisk and start adding in the soy milk in initially small increments. Once the mixture is smooth and has come together after a splash has been added, add the next etc. Once all the soy milk is combined, switch back to the wooden spoon and stir until thickened slightly. Once a bubble appears, take off the heat. Add the coconut milk, nutmeg and season, whisking to combine.
- Assemble your cannelloni by either stuffing it in your hard shells or rolling it up in fresh pasta.
- Take a large baking dish that will hold all your cannelloni and add about half the passata (you can use as much or as little as you like of the passata). Now dollop 1/2 the béchamel over the sauce. Spread over the base of the tray, and then submerge your cannelloni in the sauce. Top with the remaining passata and then béchamel. Sprinkle over the handful of vegan cheese and bake in the preheated oven (180C) for 30 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente and the cheese melted & golden. Eat up!