Cannelloni is a typical Italian dish, which can be made with minced beef, cheese and/or vegetables. Cannelloni is typically made with a cylindrical type of pasta or with fresh lasagne sheets that are rolled over around the filling. Cannelloni is typically sitting on tomato sauce and sometimes either tomato or béchamel sauce is used on the top of the dish. Most of the time, cheese is sprinkled on its top and then the dish is baked so that the flavours mingle and the topping turns brown and slightly crispy.
There is little to know about the origins of cannelloni. Probably it originates from the 19th or early 20th Century and it is associated with the name of Nicola Federico, an Italian chef. It is thought that he created the cannelloni in a small restaurant in Naples. From the little restaurant, the cannelloni spread all over the world. It became very popular; so much that probably most Italian restaurants offer it on their menu.
I often make cannelloni based on the below vegetarian recipe that I found on BBC Good Food. It is very healthy and nutritious as it uses spinach and tofu for filling. The dish is sitting on a bed of tomato sauce and tomato sauce is used on its top, too. Instead of cheese, nuts and breadcrumbs are used to achieve the crispy finish.
The dish contains ample amount of vitamins and nutrients. Thanks to the spinach, vitamin K, A, B2, B6, E, manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, copper and calcium are included in the dish, amongst other nutrients. The tofu mostly contributes calcium, manganese, copper, selenium and protein and also includes other minerals and vitamins to a lesser extent. Nuts and the ample amount of tomato sauce used in this dish provide additional valuable nutritional content.
This spinach & tofu cannelloni serves 4 people. Serve it with steamed or stir-fried French beans, broccoli or okra or mix them all up for a lovely side dish. Try it today and enjoy both the health benefits and the lovely taste of this dish!
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 onion (finely chopped)
- 3 garlic cloves (minced)
- 2 cans of chopped tomatoes (400 grams each)
- 50 grams of pine nuts or walnuts (roughly chopped)
- 400 gram bag of frozen spinach (defrosted)
- 350 gram pack of silken tofu
- 300 gram pack of fresh lasagne sheets
- 4 tablespoons of fresh breadcrumbs
- Salt (according to taste)
- Pepper (according to taste)
- Basil or oregano or Italian mixed herbs (according to taste)
- Pinch of grated nutmeg
- Sweat the onion in half of the oil in a saucepan. Add one-third of the garlic and fry until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes, season with salt, pepper and basil / oregano / Italian mixed herbs. Bring the sauce to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 Celsius.
- Heat half the oil in a saucepan and fry one-third of the garlic for 1 minute. Add half the pine nuts / walnuts and the spinach. Wilt the spinach and tip out the excess liquid.
- Whizz tofu in a food processor until smooth. Add it to the spinach & nut mixture. Add the nutmeg and some pepper. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Pour half of the tomato sauce into a 20 cm x 30 cm ovenproof dish. Divide the spinach, nut & tofu mixture between the lasagne sheets. Roll the lasagne sheets up and lay them on top of the tomato sauce in the ovenproof dish.
- Pour half of the tomato sauce over the lasagne sheets, cover with aluminium foil and bake the dish for 30 minutes.
- Mix breadcrumbs with one-third of the garlic and half of the pine nuts / walnuts. Sprinkle this mixture over the dish, drizzle with a little oil and bake for 10 minutes uncovered until the crumbs and nuts are golden.