Gabriele d’Annunzio described the inebriating pleasures of Rome: his most famous novel, Il Piacere, published in 1889 and known in English as The Child of Pleasure, depicts Roman youth in all its pulsating eccentricities. The same capriciousness is to be found in the city’s brilliant architectural bric-a-brac. Rome is a multi-layered city, one element on top of and inside another. Similarly, these Ricotta & Saffron Cannelloni hold a secret: the translucent ricotta is hidden under a pasta camouflage and its creamy softness adorns the crispy edges.
Preparation time: 30 minutes plus cooling and resting
Cooking time: 50 minutes
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
300g (101/2 oz) passata
4 sage leaves
2 red chicory heads, trimmed and leaves chopped
300g (101/2oz) ricotta cheese
salt and pepper
300g (101/2 oz) super-fine grade 00 pasta flour
pinch of salt
50g (13/4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
100g (31/2 oz) plain flour
1 litre (13/4 pints) milk
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
50g (13/4 oz) breadcrumbs
50g (13/4 oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper
For the topping, melt the butter in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat and whisk in the flour to form a paste (roux). Whisking all the while to prevent any lumps forming, gradually add the milk, return the pan to the heat and continue to whisk until the sauce has thickened to the consistency of custard and is gently bubbling. Stir in the nutmeg and saffron, season generously with salt and pepper and set aside for at least 30 minutes to cool.
While the topping is cooling, make the pasta. Pile the flour and salt onto a wooden board or into a bowl, make a well in the centre and crack in the eggs. Whisk the eggs lightly with a fork then, using your hands, mix everything together well to form a rough dough. Knead the dough together until all the pieces have combined and you have formed a velvety smooth lump of dough. (If the dough is looking a little dry, add a few drops of water. If it’s too wet, add a little extra flour.) Leave the dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to rest.
Once rested, divide the dough into 12 equal-sized pieces. Roll each out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 7.5 x 15-cm (3 x 6-inch) rectangle. Cover with a damp clean tea towel to prevent the pasta from
drying out and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4.
For the sauce and filling, place two saucepans over a medium heat, adding 2 tablespoons of olive oil and half of the chopped red onion to each. Cook the onion, stirring, for 2–3 minutes until slightly softened, then add the passata and sage leaves to one pan and the chopped chicory to the other. Season both pans with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 15 minutes, until the tomato sauce has thickened and reduced slightly and the chicory
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Working in batches, carefully lower the pasta rectangles into the water and cook for 60 seconds, then transfer to a bowl of iced water to prevent them from overcooking (be careful as you go, as the cannelloni are delicate and will tear easily).
Remove the pasta rectangles from the iced water, pat dry with kitchen paper and arrange on a clean work surface. Place a tablespoon of filling along the long edge of a pasta rectangle, then roll up gently to create a tubular shape. Carefully place the cannelloni in the prepared baking dish with the open edges down. Repeat with the remaining pasta rectangles.
Spoon the topping over the cannelloni and sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and Parmesan to finish. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the topping is golden and bubbling, then leave to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
This recipe for Ricotta & Saffron Cannelloni is extracted from As The Romans Do by Eleonora Galasso. In her new cookbook, Instagram star and Roman native Eleonora Galasso transports us to the never ending, always eternal city of Rome with a plethora of mouth-watering dishes broken down, following a typical day in the life of a Roman. Throughout the book, Eleonora shares the history and anecdotes relating to each dish, simultaneously transporting you to the Roman sunshine and bringing la dolce vita to your kitchen.
Published by Mitchell Beazley, £25 (www.octopusbooks.co.uk) Photography by David Loftus