These vegetarian spinach and ricotta cannelloni are smothered in a cashew milk bechamel that gives them a nutty flavour that’s out of this world.
Spinach and ricotta is a combination made in heaven and I like it in everything from pasta bake to lasagna. This divine duo truly shines in these spinach and ricotta cannelloni that never lasts the night in my house.
While this is not something that you may want to make every week because it takes some time to work on the filling and the bechamel and then assemble everything together, it’s a recipe that would be perfect for a weekend treat.
How are these spinach and ricotta cannelloni different?
My recipe stems from the classic combination of creamy, cheesy spinach with fresh ricotta and a hint of nutmeg, but the twist is in the bechamel sauce that covers the cannelloni.
Instead of going for the traditional full-fat milk and eggs version that tends to be quite heavy, I use cashew milk and no eggs at all. Yes, the sauce may not be as creamy, but the nutty flavour of the cashew milk pairs perfectly with the nutmeg and spinach and you’ll be truly surprised of how well it works when you take that first bite.
Another thing that you’ll notice about these spinach and ricotta cannelloni is the fact that there is no tomato sauce in sight. Traditionally, they are made with Italian peeled plum tomatoes or chopped tomatoes, but I opted for a “white” cannelloni version because I didn’t want to distract from the bechamel.
The end result is spectacular and no matter how many times I make this recipe, it gets demolished in our home.
Three steps to make perfect spinach and ricotta cannelloni
There are three main steps to making this recipe:
- Make the spinach and ricotta filling
- Make the cashew milk bechamel
- Assemble the cannelloni and bake
It takes about two hours from start to finish to make these cannelloni, including baking time. I like to use fresh lasagne sheets that I roll in the shape of cannelloni because I find the fresh pasta tastier and I don’t like to faff about with cannelloni tubes. Plus, you don’t have to boil them first.
In the UK, you’ll find fresh lasagne sheets in most supermarkets and I think I tried them all. I recommend getting the ones from Tesco because they are smaller and the end result is more similar to cannelloni made with tubes. This recipe requires 20 small fresh lasagne sheets or 12 large ones from other supermarkets.
Tips for making the best spinach and ricotta cannelloni
- I use frozen spinach successfully for this recipe, but you need to make sure you remove most of the water in it. If you skip this step, you’ll end up with soggy cannelloni.
- The cashew milk can be substituted with another nutty plant-based milk such as almond milk. However, I think the cashew one is the best flavour for this recipe.
- The bechamel sauce has Gruyere cheese in it. You should not substitute this for something else, because it’ll change the flavour entirely. Believe me, you’ll be missing out.
Can you freeze these cannelloni?
You can absolutely freeze the spinach and ricotta cannelloni for up to a month. Because they take some work, it’s a good idea to make a double batch and freeze one for a hassle-free dinner. when you don’t feel like cooking.
If you liked this recipe, have a look at some of my other Italian-inspired recipes:
For the spinach filling
- 25 g butter
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 shallot, finely minced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 900 g fresh spinach (or frozen, thawed and excess water removed)
For the ricotta
- 500 g (2 tubs) ricotta cheese
- 2 medium eggs
- 75 g grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 tsp grated nutmeg
For the bechamel sauce
- 40 g butter
- 35 g all-purpose flour
- 750 ml cashew milk
- 100 g grated Gruyere cheese
- 100 g grated mozzarella cheese
- 20 fresh lasagne sheets
Prepare the spinach filling
- In a large pan, heat the butter and olive oil until melted over medium heat.
- Add the shallot and garlic and cook for one minute, careful not to burn it.
- Gradually add the spinach and stir continuously until wilted. If you use frozen spinach, stir until most of the moisture is gone. You should be left with a dry pan bottom. Season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer the spinach to a fine strainer and press with a spatula to remove any excess moisture. Leave aside.
Prepare the ricotta
- In a large bowl, combine half the ricotta with the eggs, Parmigiano cheese, and the nutmeg. Mix with a hand mixer (or use a food processor) until completely smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
- In a food processor, pulse the spinach until finely chopped, but not reduced to a paste.
- Add the spinach to the ricotta mixture and mix with a spatula. Fold the remaining ricotta in the mixture.
Prepare the bechamel sauce
- In a sauce pan, heat the butter over medium heat until completely melted. Add the flour gradually and whisk until you obtain a pale golden mixture.
- Start adding the milk in small increments, whisking continuously. Stir until all the milk is in and the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and add the Gruyere cheese and half of the mozzarella. Set aside.
Assemble the cannelloni
- Preheat the oven at 200 degrees Celsius.
- In a large casserole, add two ladles of the white sauce and spread it evenly.
- Take a lasagne sheet and add about half a ladle of the spinach mixture to the lower end of the sheet. Roll until a cannelloni takes shape and place in the casserole. Repeat with the rest of the lasagne sheets.
- Spread the remaining bechamel over the cannelloni and sprinkle the remaining mozzarella on top. Use a spatula to spread it evenly.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake on a low-medium rack for 30 minutes.
- Remove the foil and bake for 20 more minutes or until the top is lightly browned.
- Let it cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 593Total Fat: 45gSaturated Fat: 25gTrans Fat: 11gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 149mgSodium: 106mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 9gSugar: 27gProtein: 35g
Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator.