PREP TIME: 45 minutes
COOK TIME: 1 hour 44 minutes
2 lb fresh roma tomatoes
½ cup olive oil
¼ white onion, chopped
1 garlic clove
1 ½ cup small basil leaves
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp Spanish or white onion, chopped
5 oz fresh spinach
½ 500-g pkg buffalo’s milk ricotta (see tip)
3 sheets fresh pasta, cut into 9 pieces, 3 by 5 inches each
3 – 4 prosciutto slices, torn
1 handful basil leaves
1. To prepare sauce, slice an X in the bottom of each tomato. Blanch tomatoes in a large pot of boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes until skin begins to peel. Immediately plunge into ice water. When cool, remove from water, peel and quarter. Chop coarsely in food processor.
2. Coat a large saucepan with oil. Set over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic for 1 to 3 minutes until translucent. Add tomatoes. Simmer over medium-low for 1 hour until thickened. Add basil for last 30 minutes of cooking. Remove from heat. When cool enough to handle, push through a food mill. Let cool completely.
3. To prepare filling, coat a medium frying pan with oil and heat over medium-low. Cook onion for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent. Add spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted.
4. Remove spinach-onion mixture from heat. When cool, squeeze with paper towel until dry. Finely chop. Whip ricotta in stand mixer for 1 minute until fluffy. Stir in spinach mixture. Spoon into a piping bag.
5. Preheat oven to 350°F. Pipe spinach-cheese mixture into thick strips along length of each pasta sheet, leaving 3 mm exposed at edges. Lightly spray with water. Roll up. Coat bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish with sauce. Place cannelloni seam-side down and spoon more sauce overtop. Cover remaining sauce and set aside.
6. Cover and bake in centre of oven for 40 minutes until pasta is cooked and sauce has thickened. If needed, remove foil for last 10 to 15 minutes of baking to thicken.
7. Serve 2 or 3 cannelloni per plate. Spoon any remaining sauce overtop. Top each serving with prosciutto, basil leaves and cheese.
You can use cow’s milk ricotta for this recipe, but it’s worth seeking out the sweeter, creamier buffalo version. Scheffler’s in St. Lawrence Market usually has it in stock. 93 Front St. E., 416-364-2806.
The menu at Rob Gentile’s luxe King West osteria includes dishes like pig’s blood pasta and bison meatballs—adventurous spins on time-tested Italian staples. When it came to his grandmother’s cannelloni, however, he didn’t have to change much: her recipe for the pasta was already perfect, with a light basil-flecked tomato sauce and an oozing cheese and spinach filling. Still, he couldn’t resist making a couple of tiny tweaks, subbing in buffalo ricotta for the regular kind and draping his cannelloni with wisps of prosciutto. Because every Gentile recipe needs a twist.