My sister invited us to a full long weekend of merriment to celebrate my BIL 40th birthday… It was jam-packed with surprises and food.
I traveled with the excuse of spending time with my nephew, Ale. So he never ever suspected the conga-line of people that would appear each night to celebrate the weekend. First, we started the celebration last Thursday, the official birth date, with his mom and brother coming in by surprise. I had to buy groceries and make everything that same day because I couldn’t let the birthday boy know we were cooking for 12 that day…
I was planning to make a taquiza/taco bar menu for dear BIL, something he had enjoyed a lot once before. But when he insisted all he wanted was his favorite tiramisu for a birthday cake, the menu quickly shifted to Italian and the poblanos and corn were set aside for another day.
Make a crepe and fill it with Nutella or gruyere cheese and you immediately think Paris or French… But take the same crepe and fill it with ricotta and spinach and what do you get? Cannelloni…
I know… there are a lot of ingredients in the list, but it’s really an easy assembly recipe. This recipe is very easily halved for a smaller crowd.
Makes about 24 cannelloni to serve 12 people
24 crepes 24oz of ricotta cheese 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese 4 cups of Italian-Blend shredded Cheese 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese 1 bag of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry as much as possible 1 large onion, diced 3 cloves of garlic, minced 2-3 tbs of chopped fresh Italian parsley 2-3 tbs of chopped fresh basil leaves 3 tbs of olive oil, divided 2 packs of Pomi chopped tomatoes 2 cups of half and half 2 tsp dried basil 2 tsp dried oregano Garlic Salt, Salt and freshly cracked Black Pepper to taste
- I make my own crepes using this batter recipe right here. I make the batter the night before and allow it to rest in the fridge overnight.
- In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, add a few drizzles of olive oil, onions and garlic. Season them liberally with salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes to allow the onions to release their moisture, but do not brown them, just until they’re soft. Set aside.
- Pre-heat oven to 425F.
- To make the filling… In a large bowl combine ricotta cheese, the cooked onions/garlic mixture, 2 cups of the Italian cheese blend, ½ cup parmesan cheese, the chopped fresh parsley and basil and the chopped thawed and squeezed spinach. Season it with salt, pepper, garlic salt and a few drizzles of olive oil. Mix well to combine. Set aside. If you want to make some cheese cannelloni without the spinach, just omit the spinach or set some cheese mixture aside before adding the spinach. The flavors will work really well.
- To make the sauce… mix together in another large bowl the chopped tomatoes, half and half and season with salt, pepper, dried oregano and basil, garlic salt and a few drizzles of olive oil. Mix together well to combine and create a pink sauce and set aside.
- Now we assemble… I had to use 2 large 9” x 13” glass oven-proof dishes for this amount of crepes. Pour 1/4 of the sauce in the bottom of each baking dish. Take each crepe and smear about 1 large soup spoonful of cheese/spinach mixture and roll into a cannelloni. Place on top of the sauce. Repeat with all the crepes and place them side by side on the baking dishes.
- When you’re done assembling the crepes in the baking dish, spoon the sauce that’s left on top of the crepes. Sprinkle the rest of the Italian blend cheeses, the mozzarella and the parmesan cheese on top of the cannelloni to create a cheesy crust on top.
- Bake in oven for about 30 minutes to allow the tomato sauce to cook and for the cheese on top to melt and brown. If the cheese is not browned to your liking, you can always turn on the broiler on low and watch it for 10 minutes or so until it’s brown and beautiful.
You can certainly make this for a large crowd like I did, or make it into individual dishes and serve for a smaller group or even just one. I did some filled with just cheese and some with the spinach… the kids ate the ones with spinach even though I had mentioned I had ones with just cheese. They were skeptical at first, but they ate it all in the end.
And if you have any creamed spinach leftover from another side dish or from making a stack of crepes… you can indeed use it and skip the step of cooking onions and garlic beforehand.