Baked Spinach and Ricotta Rotolo is like Lasagna Rolls Ups and Cannelloni – but BETTER because it’s got brown crunchy bits. And crunchy bits are always the best!
Spinach and Ricotta Rotolo
I’m going to call it – this will be the best new thing you’ve made all year. The rich tomato sauce. The creamy spinach and ricotta filling spiked with parmesan and nutmeg. Golden brown bubbly cheese. And the brown crunchy bits, the crowning glory.
How inappropriate would it be to pick off all the crunchy bits before it gets to the table?
What is Rotolo?
Rotolo is a traditional Italian dish that’s not widely known outside of Italy. The literal translation of “rotolo” is “scroll” or “coil”.
The authentic way of making rotolo involves a very large fresh pasta sheet that is spread with a filling then rolled up to form a roulade. It’s quite technical and fussy because you then need to wrap the roulade in a tea towel and poach it, then slice it to serve with a sauce.
For day to day cooking, I shelved this as a “too hard” recipe. But then I came across this baked version made by Jamie Oliver. The way he made it, it was basically cannelloni made with fresh lasagna sheets which is sliced then placed into the tomato sauce and baked.
It’s not purely authentic, but for ordinary people like me, it is much more practical. And so darn tasty! Those brown bits….those crunchy brown bits. They make this dish!
Spinach Ricotta Rotolo Rilling
Rotolo comes with all sorts of stuffing options. Jamie Oliver’s recipe is made with squash and spinach, it’s also made with meat, and Spinach & Ricotta is a popular option which is what I’ve gone with.
Here’s what you need for the filling:
PS Let’s pretend I didn’t forget to put LASAGNA SHEETS in the above photo! Fresh best, but if you can only get dried, just boil to cook then use per recipe.
Want a meat filling?
Use the filling from this Spinach & Beef Cannelloni – scale up by 50% (ie use 750g/1.5lb beef, or use extra spinach), cool (will thicken) then roll!
Spinach Ricotta Rotolo Sauce
And here’s what you need for the sauce:
Tomato Passata is key for this sauce. Because it’s pureed tomato, it’s the ideal consistency to make a smooth tomato sauce for the Rotolo with just 5 minutes simmering. Using canned tomato would require at least 30 minutes simmering for the chunks to break down enough to make the desired consistency for the sauce.
How to make Baked Rotolo
And here’s how it’s made:
- Make the sauce first;
- Mix filling, roll up, cut into thirds;
- Place in sauce, bake!
The smells coming out of your oven while it’s baking are pretty darn good.
But that moment when you pull it out of the oven and you stare at what you’ve just made, mesmerised by how magnificent it looks…. it’s worth making, just to see THIS in real life:
They’re quite sturdy little things, so you don’t need to dig in with a delicate touch. They hold together well (the lasagna sheets adhere as they cook) and they hold their form pretty well as you scoop them up. See? (And just WAIT until you see the video!)
Truthfully though, some will flop and sag, and fall on their side, and you probably will rip the side off some of the them as you scoop into the pan to plate them up.
And that’s completely on theme. There’s nothing elegant about this Spinach and Ricotta Rotolo. It’s rustic. The best sort of food – relaxed deliciousness!
Being that there’s a couple of bunches of spinach in this (ahem, in the form of frozen spinach!) and a big bottle of tomato passata, there’s actually a decent amount of vegetables in this dish. So I usually serve it just as is without any sides for a casual midweek meal.
But a fresh side salad would certainly elevate the meal – this Rocket Salad with Parmesan Shavings is very on theme (classic Italian) – and I am pretty sure nobody would say no to a side of Garlic Bread.
Now, go forth and impress the pants off your family and friends! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Baked Spinach and Ricotta Rotolo
Want a meat filling? Use the filling from this Spinach & Beef Cannelloni – scale up by 50% (or use extra spinach), cool (will thicken) then roll!
- 8 – 10 fresh lasagne sheets (15 x 11 cm/6 x 4.5″) (Note 1)
- 1 cup mozarella cheese , shredded
- 1 tbsp olive oil (for drizzling later)
- 500g / 1 lb frozen spinach (pre chopped) , thawed and excess water squeezed out (Note 2)
- 500 g / 1 lb ricotta cheese (NOT smooth, whipped or spreadable in tubs, Note 3)
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese , shredded
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese , shredded
- 1 garlic clove , pressed using garlic crusher or finely grated
- 1/4 fresh nutmeg , grated (or 1/8 tsp nutmeg powder)
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp Black pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 1/2 onion , finely diced (brown, yellow, white)
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 700 g / 24 oz tomato passata (US: Tomato puree) (Note 5)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- Handful basil leaves (optional)
Heat oil in a 25cm/10″ ovenproof skillet over medium high heat. (Note 6)
Add garlic and sauté for 10 seconds then add onion.
Cook onion until translucent and starting to turn golden, then passata, water, chilli flakes (if using), salt and pepper.
Simmer for 5 minutes on medium low, then stir through basil. Should be quite thin – the lasagna sheets will absorb water while in the oven so sauce thickens alot in oven.
Scoop out 1 cup of the Tomato Sauce which will be used to drizzle over the dish at the end. Keep sauce warm.
Filling & Assembling:
Preheat oven to 180°C/350CF (all oven types)
Place Filling ingredients in a bowl. Mix well with wooden spoon.
As per the photo & video, lay out the lasagne sheet with the shorter end in front of you.
Place 1/3 cup (packed) of filling onto the lasagne sheet. Dab some water on the end furthest away from you (to seal the roll), then roll up starting from the end closest to you. Finish with the seal down.
Cut rolls into 3 (so each piece is 3.5cm/1.5″ wide). Place the rolls into the tomato sauce with the filling facing up.
Repeat with remaining lasagna sheets until all the Filling is used up.
Drizzle the reserved Tomato Sauce over (don’t cover completely, leave some exposed).
Cover loosely with foil, bake 30 minutes.
Remove from oven, remove foil. Drizzle with oil, top with mozzarella.
Bake 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and golden and you’ve got some crunchy golden bits on the edges. Serve!
- need to be fresh sheets from the fridge section so they can be rolled up
- standard 375g/ 12oz packs from Australian grocery store is more than you need – you’ll have about 1/3 leftover (freeze and use in beef, chicken or vegetable lasagna)
- dried sheets – boil them per packet, drain then use.
- size – don’t worry if your lasagne sheets are not exactly the same size (they come in all different sizes). They can be any size as long as they can be cut to size so they are long enough to roll up, then can be cut into 3.5 – 4 cm / 1.5″ little logs.
2. Spinach – thaw then grab handfuls and squeeze out excess water, or press through colander like I do in video.
To use fresh, you’ll need 3 bunches of English spinach – chop off stems, wash throughly, blanch until wilted then finely chop, squeeze out excess liquid and use per recipe (you need 1.5 cups packed, after water squeezed out).
- Paesanella brand is my favourite (vac packed baskets at Harris and delis);
- Don’t use spreadable / whipped or smooth ricotta, these are for spreading on things so they are fluffier and creamier;
- Australia, do NOT get Perfect Italiano in tubs from the fridge section! It is offensively bad – powdery and terrible;
Can’t get good ricotta? Use one of these:
- 250g/8oz cream cheese softened +250g/8oz cottage cheese*
- Greekish spin – 250g/8oz cream cheese softened + 150g/5oz feta (preferably Danish, the creamier rather than crumbly feta, if you can find it) + 100g/3oz cottage cheese* (or more feta)
* Remove excess water from cottage cheese: tip out into paper towel lined colander for 15 minutes.
5. Passata is pureed tomato, thinner than tomato paste and smoother than crushed tomatoes. Sometimes labelled “tomato puree” in the US.
You can substitute with crushed tomatoes but you will need to add and extra 1 cup of water and simmer for 20 minutes so the tomato breaks down more.
6. Cooking vessel – if you don’t have the right size oven proof skillet, just make the sauce in any frypan then transfer into a baking dish. One way to figure out the right size is to make all the roll ups, stand them upright on a plate then you’ll know how big a baking dish you need.
7. To make ahead, this is best frozen before baking. Cool the tomato sauce, then stir in an extra 3/4 cup water (the lasagna sheets hydrate even when not in oven, if you don’t do this, you end up with thick tomato sauce once cooked).
Assemble the dish but do not put the cheese on, freeze in an airtight container, then defrost completely. Bake 40 minutes covered (takes longer fridge cold) then top with cheese and bake 15 min per recipe.
If you freeze it after baking it: defrost completely then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of water (most of it over the pasta sauce) per 6 pieces of rotolo before reheating. If you reheat it in the microwave, stick it under the grill/broiler for a few minutes (after reheating it) to make the top crunchy again, and I also recommend adding some fresh cheese, just to freshen the dish up. To reheat it in the oven, reheat at 180C/300F (covered with foil) until just warmed through ~ 15 nin. Then remove the cover, scatter over some fresh cheese then return to oven until the top is crunchy, the cheese melted and the rotolo is heated through.
8. Nutrition per serving.
Originally published June 2014. Years overdue for a VIDEO to be added!
Life of Dozer
I’m sure you’d have a very different reaction if that were me and that bottle were real.
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