Pasta based dishes are great when you’re cooking for a hungry crowd. Quick, filling, inexpensive, and the perfect black canvas to build on, lasagne sheets can be rolled, filled, and baked to create stuffed-tubes of pure deliciousness.
Since it is winter here in Australia, I gave this traditional Italian dish a seasonal twist and filled the wholemeal cannelloni with vibrant butternut pumpkin.
Sweet, nutty, and rich, the pumpkin is lifted by the addition of ricotta, lemon, spinach, and plenty of fresh parsley. I also avoided fussing about with a true béchamel sauce and made a simple cauliflower sauce to top the pasta with.
Once filled and rolled, the cannelloni tubes are placed snugly on a bed of tomato sauce and baked in the oven until crispy and golden on top, and soft and moist at the bottom. Buon appetito!
Big thank you to Kitchenware Superstore Australia for providing the gorgeous Le Creuset dish for this recipe.
For the pumpkin filling:
½ butternut pumpkin, approx. 700g, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves
3 sprigs of thyme
½ cup ricotta cheese, plus extra to top before baking
Juice and finely grated zest of ½ lemon
¼ cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
6 large handfuls of spinach, washed
For the tomato sauce:
2 x 400g tins of tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp crush red pepper flakes
½ cup (use the empty tomato tin as a rough measure) water
Freshly ground black pepper
For the cauliflower sauce:
½ cauliflower, florets chopped
1 litre vegetable stock, or water
¼ cup milk
Freshly ground black pepper
16 fresh wholemeal lasagne sheets*
Extra thyme leaves, for serving
Lemon zest, for serving
*If using dried lasagne sheets, par cook the pasta by soaking in boiling water for 5 or so minutes. Drain and let cool long enough to handle with your hands.
Preheat oven to 200C
Place the pumpkin in a roasting tin. Smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of your knife and add to the pumpkin. Throw in some sprigs of thyme and drizzle with olive oil. Toss everything together, season with salt and pepper and pop into the oven to roast until caramalised and tender (approx. 35 minutes).
While the pumpkin is roasting make the tomato and cauliflower sauces.
For the tomato sauce, drizzle a little olive oil into a pan and add red pepper flakes, garlic and a pinch of sea salt. Stir and cook over medium-high for 1 minute until fragrant. Add tomatoes and water and heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.
For the cauliflower sauce, bring the water or vegetable stock to a boil in a large saucepan. Add cauliflower and cook gently, covered, for 7-10 minutes, until tender. Remove from heat but do not drain the cooking liquid.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer cauliflower into the bowl of a food processer or a blender. Add 1 cup of the cooking liquid, milk, salt and pepper. Puree the mixture until smooth, adding more stock if you feel the sauce is too thick. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Wilt the spinach for the pumpkin filling but putting the spinach into a saucepan along with a splash of water. Once the spinach has wilted, remove it from the pan and let cool. Squeeze any excess liquid from the spinach leaves before chopping. Set aside.
Once the pumpkin has cooked, remove it from the oven and transfer to a large bowl. Using a fork, mash the pumpkin until quite smooth. Add the ricotta, lemon juice and zest, and chopped spinach. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Spread the tomato sauce across the bottom of a baking dish. Cut each lasagne sheet into 14cm x 16cm pieces. Spoon some of the pumpkin mixture (about 1/3 cup) along the length of the lasagne sheet and roll up to form a tube.
Lay tubes side by side in the baking dish. Spoon over cauliflower sauce and top with some extra ricotta cheese and a drizzle with olive oil. Add a few splashes of water to the dish, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, uncover for the final 15 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked through. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and some lemon zest and serve hot.