Friday, February 20, 2015

{Fresh} Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Cannelloni

I hesitated posting this because I couldn't get a good picture. The cannelloni pasta tubes are swimming in a savory meat sauce and melted cheese, which isn't a bad thing, it just means you can't see the cute little cannelloni individually. But this recipe is too good not to share! If you don't know what cannelloni pasta is, they're like little miniature manicotti tubes. I prefer these over manicotti because the ratio of sauce to filling is much more evenly distributed. Now that those formalities are out of the way, let's talk about this dish. I'm sure everyone has had one version or another of this, whether it's spinach stuffed shells, spinach stuffed manicotti or another spinach stuffed cannelloni recipe. The thing I've never really liked about those is that most of the recipes call for frozen spinach or cooked spinach. I just have a problem with spinach when it's cooked, it's so not appetizing to me. So I've tweaked different recipes to add fresh spinach and fresh herbs and it adds that little something to make this dish just incredible. I also love using a canned pasta sauce as a base to cut back on time then adding ground beef to make it a little heartier (read: man friendly) and freshening it up with some herbs. So this right here is the best of the best and I have a feeling you'll love it too!

1 package Cannelloni pasta tubes
1 pound ground beef
½ cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (26-ounce) jar pasta or marinara sauce
2 Tbs chopped fresh oregano
2 Tbs chopped fresh basil
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
3 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 (16 oz) container Ricotta cheese
2 cups baby spinach leaves, stems removed and roughly chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
½ C half and half

Cook cannelloni as package directs (unless they are the no-boil type). Drain and drizzle with olive oil so they don’t stick. Preheat oven to 350. In a large saucepan, over medium heat, brown meat and pour off fat. Add onion and garlic, cooking and stirring until tender. Stir in pasta sauce, 1 Tbs oregano, 1 Tbs basil, 1 Tbs parsley and ¼ C half and half. Simmer 15 minutes. In a bowl, combine 2 cups Mozzarella cheese, Ricotta cheese, spinach, 1 Tbs oregano, 1 Tbs basil, 1 Tbs parsley, eggs, Parmesan cheese, salt and remaining ¼ C half and half; mix well. Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Using a piping bag (or a ziploc bag with one corner cut off) fill cannelloni with ricotta mixture and arrange in baking dish. Spoon sauce evenly over pasta. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Remove foil and top with remaining 1 cup Mozzarella cheese. Bake uncovered 15 minutes longer. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley.

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