The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Our Cooking Project #1: Chicken, Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni

Rob and I recently decided to start doing cooking projects together on a regular basis on weekends as a couple thing, and our first project was this unbelievably delicious Chicken, Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni. I'm not being biased here just because we cooked it - this was the best stuffed pasta I have ever eaten, better even than the ones I've eaten at restaurants. Getting the ingredients was not as easy (or as cheap) in Tokyo as it would have been if we were in Australia or New York, but it wasn't impossible. It was well worth the effort and the discomfort from the extra heat generated by the oven. Of course, when I say we cooked this "together", I meant that we had to take turns in the kitchen and looking after Zak: Rob did the prep while I breastfed the baby, then I cooked the filling, sauce and lasagna sheets ready for assembling while Rob watched Zak during his playtime. We did get in the (tiny) kitchen together for the final step of assembling the cannelloni while Zak watched the hustle and bustle from the safety of his playpen in the adjacent living room. It was all about great teamwork! This wasn't just about making a delicious dish - it really felt good to do something as a couple, something that has become somewhat of a rare occurrence since Zak was born. (By the way, the last thing we cooked together was almost a year ago.)

How we enjoyed eating lunch that day - but don't just take our word for it - do give this recipe a try and see for yourself how delicious it is! The recipe was adapted from several recipes on, because, as always, I cannot simply follow just one recipe - where would the creativity in cooking be if I didn't add my touch to the recipe?

I just could not get a good photogenic shot of the cannelloni after plating, so it may not look very appetising but we relished every bite of it:

Chicken, Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni

Serves 2 (with big appetites), 3200kJ/762cal per serve


1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large brown onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
200g minced chicken
250g spinach, chopped
250g ricotta
1/2teaspoon nutmeg
Italian herbs (oregano, basil, thyme, sage)
690g bottle of passata (tomato puree)
salt and pepper
Grated mozzarella (as much as you desire, we used about 50g)
~100g dried lasagna sheets (7 sheets of the Barilla brand), boiled briefly to soften enough to be pliable without breaking but not soft enough to tear - a step before the edible al dente stage


Prepare the filling and sauce

1. Heat oil in frypan over medium heat and cook the onion and garlic for a few minutes until the onion is soft and slightly caramelised. Set aside half of the cooked onion and garlic mix.
2. Add the chicken mince to the remaining half onion and garlic mix in the frypan, and cook for a couple of minutes until the meat changes colour, breaking up lumps as you cook.
3. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and allow to cool. Briefly blanch the chopped spinach in boiling water, then drain it and allow to cool. Add the spinach, ricotta and nutmeg to the chicken in the mixing bowl, and season with salt, pepper and herbs to taste. Mix well.
4. To make the sauce, return the reserved onion and garlic mix to the frypan and add the passata. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for a few minutes over low heat. Season with salt, pepper and herbs to taste.

The oh-so-photogenic shot of the filling mix in the bowl; and the sauce in the pan:


5. Preheat the oven to 180degC.
6. Place one of the lasagna sheets on a flat surface, and spoon some of the filling along one short edge of the pasta. Roll it up, and repeat for all the lasagna sheets or until filling is used up.

7. Spread half the tomato sauce over the base of a 20cmx30cm baking dish, and arrange the cannelloni in the dish.

8. Spread the remaining sauce over the cannelloni and top with grated cheese.
9. Bake for 20 minutes, and serve with salad.

Before and after baking:

No comments:

Post a Comment