Rotolo of ricotta and spinach

    1 hour 15 min

    This is an attractive recipe to serve as a main dish, and it is equally good served as a first course, when it will provide 8 portions. Serve a fresh, crisp green salad as an accompaniment, taking advantage of the wide range of leaves and green vegetables that can be eaten raw.

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    Serves: 4 

    • 8 sheets fresh lasagne verde, about 170 g (6 oz) in total
    • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
    • ½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 85 g (3 oz) pancetta, chopped
    • 225 g (8 oz) ricotta cheese
    • 2 tbsp chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme and oregano
    • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 3 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
    • 3 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    • salt and pepper
    • fresh oregano leaves to garnish
    • Red pepper sauce
    • 1 large red pepper, halved and seeded
    • ½ tsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 1 tbsp plain flour
    • 240 ml (8 fl oz) chicken or vegetable stock
    • 2 tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped
    • 1 tbsp tomato purée
    • ½ tsp sugar

    Prep:50min  ›  Cook:25min  ›  Ready in:1hr15min 

    1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F, gas mark 6) and grease a shallow ovenproof dish.
    2. Cook the lasagne in boiling water for 3–5 minutes, or according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Drain, rinse in cold water and drain again, then lay the sheets out on a clean tea-towel, in a single layer, to dry.
    3. Drain the spinach thoroughly in a fine sieve, pressing out all the liquid with the back of a spoon.
    4. Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the garlic and pancetta, and fry for 2 minutes. Stir in the spinach until thoroughly mixed, then leave to cool slightly.
    5. Stir in the ricotta, herbs, nutmeg and seasoning to taste. Divide the filling equally among the sheets of lasagne, spreading it to the edges. Roll up each sheet like a Swiss roll and place in the prepared dish.
    6. Mix the breadcrumbs with the cheese and sprinkle this over the rolls. Bake for 20–25 minutes or until brown and crisp.
    7. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Preheat the grill to the hottest setting and grill the pepper halves, skin side up, until blistered and blackened. Cool in a polythene bag, then peel the peppers and chop them.
    8. Heat the oil and fry the garlic and peppers for 2 minutes. Stir in the flour, then gradually pour in the stock, stirring all the time. Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, sugar and seasoning to taste. Stir well. Bring the sauce to the boil, then reduce the heat and cover the pan. Simmer for 10 minutes. Blend the sauce until smooth in a food processor or blender. Return the sauce to the pan and reheat it gently, stirring occasionally.
    9. Cut each rotolo diagonally into 3 slices and arrange these on plates. Pour some of the sauce around the slices and serve the remainder separately. Garnish with oregano and serve immediately.

    Some more ideas

    Cook 340 g (12 oz) frozen peas in boiling water for 1 minute, drain and crush them with a potato masher. Mix in 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried thyme, and the grated zest of 1 lemon. Use this pea mixture instead of the spinach in the rotolo filling. * For a vegetarian version, simply omit the pancetta. * For a sauce of diced vegetables, fry 2 finely diced carrots with the garlic and red peppers. Add 2 diced courgettes and 2 finely chopped spring onions after 5 minutes' cooking. Do not blend the sauce, but leave it chunky.

    Plus points

    Not only is frozen spinach convenient and versatile, but it also retains almost 80% of its vitamin C content after 3 months of storage. This compares well to the fresh vegetable, which loses almost 50% of its vitamin C within 3 days when stored in the fridge.

    Each serving provides

    A, calcium * C, copper, potassium * B1, niacin, selenium

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