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If you need one pasta dish that you can make over and over again this winter, be ready to bookmark this yummy spinach and ricotta recipe by Chef Jamie Oliver. The filling can be used to stuff cannelloni tubes or layer between lasagna sheets and can be varied to suit your preference or to put that bit of leftover roasted chicken from yesterday’s dinner to good use. I like the idea of filling these pasta tubes ahead and saving them for those bad hair days when you come back tired from work and cannot be bothered to cook or do anything else. With this simple bit of pre-planning, you simply have to place the pre-filled cannelloni in an ovenproof dish, spread the tomato sauce on top, sprinkle with cheese and pop it in the oven for half an hour baking time while you slowly unwind from the stress of a hectic day by soaking your tired limbs in a hot, fragrant bubble bath.

SPINACH & RICOTTA CANNELLONI

Ingredients:

400 g spinach

Extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 large brown onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, squashed

2 x 400 g tins of tomatoes

1 bay leaf, optional

1/2 bunch of basil leaves

1/2 lemon, grated zest of

250 g fresh ricotta cheese

1 free-range egg, beaten

2 teaspoons grated parmesan

150 g cannelloni, about 14 tubes

2 x 125 g mozzarella balls, sliced

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Put the spinach and a drizzle of olive oil in a large pan over a low heat.

  • Add nutmeg, season with salt and pepper. Leave to sweat. Stir occasionally till spinach is cooked down.

  • Place in a bowl and set it aside to cool a little. In the same pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil over low heat.

  • Gently sweat the onion until soft. Add the garlic, tomatoes, bay leaf, a few basil leaves and lemon zest.

  • Let it gently simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly. Season with salt and pepper.

  • Squeeze the moisture out of the spinach into the bowl. Place the spinach on a board so as to chop it up.

  • Return spinach to the liquid in the bowl and stir in ricotta, beaten egg and parmesan. Season to taste.

  • Sit the piping bag in a jug, fold its edges over the rim, then carefully spoon the spinach mixture into it.

  • Pipe the spinach-ricotta mixture into the cannelloni tubes and lay them in a 20-cm x 25-cm oven dish.

  • Spread the tomato sauce over the cannelloni. Scatter over most of the basil, lay mozzarella slices on top.

  • Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and season. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 35 to 40 minutes.

  • The top should turn golden and the pasta is tender; if the top browns too fast, cover the dish with foil.

  • Remove from the oven and let stand for few minutes before serving with the remaining basil. Serves 6.

Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni

Published in the January 2016 edition of the famous Bon Appetit magazine, this particular recipe for crispy mozzarella sticks is the offering of its senior food editor, Andy Baraghani who does not compromise with the crunch factor. The sticks are double battered in layers of flour, egg and panko breadcrumbs which you will find in the Japanese gourmet section along with sushi making kits and green or red curry pastes. The sticks can be conveniently made in advance and frozen in batches to be served piping hot as appetizers for any brunch or dinner party you are planning to host.

MOZZARELLA STICKS

Ingredients:

1 pound mozzarella

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 large eggs, room temperature

3 tablespoons whole milk

2 cups breadcrumbs

1½ teaspoons garlic powder

1½ teaspoons onion powder

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Vegetable oil, for frying

Kosher salt, for seasoning

Method:

  • Cut mozzarella into 3 x 1/2″ pieces. Place flour in a shallow dish. Whisk eggs and milk in another dish.

  • Mix breadcrumb, garlic powder, onion powder, dried basil, oregano, parsley, and thyme in third dish.

  • Working with one piece of mozzarella at a time, dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Dip in egg mixture.

  • Then coat in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing to adhere. Repeat the same steps for a second coating.

  • Transfer to a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pieces of mozzarella.

  • Transfer the wire rack to freezer and freeze at least 1 hour. Fit a large pot with deep-fry thermometer.

  • Pour in the vegetable oil to come 2″ up sides. Heat over medium-high till thermometer registers 350°.

  • Working in batches, fry mozzarella, turning occasionally, till golden brown and crisp, 2 to 2½ minutes.

  • Transfer the sticks to a paper towel-lined plate, season with salt while still hot. Makes about 24 pieces.

Mozzarella Cheese & Herb Sticks

Here is proof that few simple ingredients go a long way in making a dish stand out of the ordinary. This minimalistic recipe, from the guru of Italian cuisine, Jamie Oliver, brings together everyday pantry staples to create the classic penne arrabiata. Freshly chopped tomatoes infused with the aroma of young basil leaves and spiced to you liking with fresh chilies [bit expensive these days] or chili flakes make the basis of arrabiata sauce. The pasta is cooked till al dente and then left to soak up the flavors of the piquant sauce before being served with a sprinkling of toasted bread crumbs and shavings of parmesan.

PENNE ARRABIATA

Ingredients:

3-4 fresh red chilies, finely chopped

6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

200 ml organic vegetable stock

400g penne pasta, uncooked

Bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked

25g parmesan cheese shavings

1/4 scotch bonnet chili, optional

Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

50g sourdough or ciabatta breadcrumbs

1/2 bunch mixed fresh herbs, chopped

1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Method:

  • Mix all pangrattato ingredients and a lug of olive in a bowl. Tip onto a baking tray, then spread out evenly.

  • Toast under the grill for 2 to 4 minutes, till lightly golden, giving tray a jiggle occasionally for even cooking.

  • Leave it aside. Add a splash of olive oil to a large pan over medium heat. Fry chili and garlic for 1 to 2 mins.

  • Then pour in tomatoes and veg stock and bring up to a simmer. Add pasta to a pot of boiling salted water.

  • Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. When pasta is al dente, remove it from heat and drain.

  • Reserve a cup of the cooking water. Tip cooked pasta and most of the basil into the tomato sauce mixture.

  • Cook pasta for a further minute or so, adding a splash of the reserved cooking water to loosen it, if needed.

  • Divide between serving plates, then finish with a few shavings of Parmesan and the remaining basil leaves.

  • Sprinkle the scotch bonnet chilli and pangrattato on top along with a drizzle of olive oil. Makes 4 servings.

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