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Ricotta & Wild Mushroom Cannelloni

A comforting autumn dish that makes the most of mushroom season. Serve with a simple green salad or steamed greens and a glass of good red wine.

Serves 4

For the dough:

  • 260g/9oz Italian 00 flour
  • 2 whole eggs + 3 egg yolks

For the filling:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 150g/5¼oz wild mushrooms, roughly sliced (or Portobello or chestnut mushrooms if you prefer)
  • 250g/9oz spinach (1 supermarket bag)
  • 500g/1lb 2oz ricotta cheese
  • 30g/1oz Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Half a nutmeg, grated
  • For the bechamel sauce
  • 75g/2¾oz butter
  • 75g/2¾oz plain flour
  • 750ml/25fl oz whole milk
  • 50g/1¾oz Parmesan cheese
  • Half a nutmeg, grated

First make the pasta dough. Tip the flour onto a clean worktop or board, make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into the middle of it. Break the egg yolks and start to whisk them, slowly incorporating the flour as you go. When everything starts to come together, use your hands to knead the dough and continue to work it for around 10 minutes.

If your dough is too moist, dust it with some extra 00 flour. If it feels too dry and crumbly, wet your hands under the kitchen tap and continue to knead. After 10 minutes your dough should be smooth and pliable. Cover the dough with an upturned bowl and leave it to rest for at least 30 minutes, while you make the filling.

Start to make the filling. Gently heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan and fry the garlic for 30 seconds. Be careful not to let it brown as it will become bitter. Add the mushrooms, turn up the heat and fry for 3 minutes, turning constantly.

When the mushrooms are softened and glistening, add the spinach, reduce the heat to low and cover with a lid. Cook for 5 minutes until the spinach is wilted. Take the pan from the heat and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

When the mixture is cool enough to handle, transfer to a chopping board and chop everything finely together. (Keep the sauté pan to one side, you can use this to make the bechamel sauce next – less washing-up is always good). Tip the mushroom mixture into a large bowl, add the ricotta, Parmesan, lemon zest and nutmeg and mix it all together before seasoning to taste. Set to one side.

For the bechamel sauce, make a roux by melting the butter in the sauté pan, add the flour and cook down for 4 minutes to allow the flour to cook through. Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly with a whisk, until all the milk is incorporated and the sauce has a consistency of double cream; this will probably take you around 10 minutes. Add the Parmesan, the nutmeg and season to taste, and set the sauce to one side while you roll your pasta.

Start rolling your pasta using one-third of the dough, keeping the rest under the upturned bowl to prevent it drying out. Roll through your pasta machine through all the steps to number 6, then cut the pasta into rectangles of approximately 12 x 8cms/4¾ x 3ins. Dust with 00 flour to prevent the pasta shapes sticking together, then repeat with the rest of the dough.

Set a large of water to boil (I use 2 litres/4 pints of water). Once the water is boiling add a tablespoon of table salt and then blanche the sheets of pasta, 4 at a time, for 10 seconds. Using tongs or a spatula, transfer the blanched pasta to a dry tea-towel spread out on your worktop.

Take a large, flat-bottomed baking dish (of the sort you would use to bake lasagne) and cover the base with 2 ladles of bechamel sauce. Now fill your pasta to create the cannelloni tubes. Place one square of pasta onto a clean board or worktop and place a large rounded tablespoon of mushroom filling into the bottom third, spreading it out slightly to reach both sides. Then carefully wrap the dough over the filling and place the tube into the baking dish.

Continue to fill your pasta until all the filling is used up and your dish is neatly packed. (Any spare pasta squares can be cut into smaller strips and can be used in a thick vegetable soup). Now pour the bechamel sauce over the top, making sure to cover all of the pasta, and bake in the oven at 180°C (fan) for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove from the oven, grate over a generous amount of Parmesan and return to the oven for another 5 minutes until the top is bubbling and golden.

Remove the cannelloni from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving with a dressed green salad or steamed broccoli. If you like, finish each serving with pangrattato or more Parmesan. Buon appetito!