Rotolo Al Forno
Whilst I enjoy a traditional ‘rotolo’, I have simplified it in this recipe titled “Rotolo Bake” using fresh pasta sheets filled with a mixture of silverbeet & ricotta, (essentially, a silverbeet & ricotta cannelloni), cut in half, sat upright in a large saucepan, filled with a thick bath of sugo. Then it’s a sprinkle of mozzarella over the top and bake. It’s was a hit with the whole famiglia!!! (scroll to bottom for full recipe)
Rotolo literally translates to ‘scroll’ or ‘coil’. Traditionally, the Italian Tuscan dish called ‘Rotolo’ involves a very large fresh sheet of pasta (usually rolled out with a mattarello – a long rolling pin) that is spread with a filling (usually of leafy greens such as spinach, silverbeet, stinging nettles, borage, mixed with ricotta, parmesan and porcini) & then rolled up to form a long log. You then wrap the log in a tea towel and poach it in hot water till cooked. It’s typically served sliced with a sugo (tomato) sauce.
The sensational ‘Rotolo’ dish was the catalyst that saw chef Jamie Oliver rise to celebrity chef stardom! He states in an interview titled, “Jamie Oliver: the recipe that changed my life” by The Guardian (Friday, 22 June 2018)….”It’s the only reason I got discovered & ended up on TV. It’s how I got to where I am today.” The chef talks about the woman who inspired him – cook, restaurateur, and cookbook author, Rose Gray of the River Cafe – and the dish that she shared with Jamie, and that gave him his big break – The Rotolo!
The traditional Rotolo is definitely one of the more unusual pasta dishes you’ll see from Italy, and not widely known here. It is true – it is time consuming to prepare, however, transformed into this bake, I am certain that it’s tantalising visual appeal & simpler method will see this meal become a part of people’s weekly meals repertoire.
I love to make fresh pasta dough from scratch & roll sheets out using my pasta machine, but shop-bought fresh pasta sheets will work just as well! If you use purchased pasta sheets, just blanch them in a pot of boiling water for 20 seconds and cool a little before using.
The filling I make, wrapped in the blanket of pasta, (similar to that of making cannelloni), includes finely sliced silverbeet (I have an abundance growing in my kitchen garden), parsley (also in excess), ricotta, grated pecorino cheese, an egg, nutmeg and seasoning of sea salt & black pepper. As is always the case, you can substitute these ingredients to suit what you have available! Just ensure the filling is not too moist – otherwise the result is very soggy pasta, which in turn, will make it near impossible to roll and place upright in your saucepan or casserole dish.
The best part I love about this dish – when you retrieve if from the oven and you see toasty brown pasta edges, cooked from the hot oven! Additionally, the layer of melted stringy mozzarella! Heaven.
Pasta Dough Recipe:
• 300g “00” Flour
• 100g Semola flour
• Pinch salt
• 2 eggs, whole
• 2 egg yolks
• 50-80ml warm water
Spinach & Ricotta Filling Recipe:
• 500g Spinach, washed, strained, finely chopped
• 250g Ricotta, firm
• ½ bunch of parsley leaves, finely sliced
• 1 egg, free-range
• 50g or 1/3 cup Pecorino Cheese
• ½ tsp nutmeg, finely grated
• Pinch sea salt
• Pinch black pepper
Tomato Sugo Recipe:
• 700g tomato passata bottle
• 1 medium size brown onion, finely chopped
• 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 3 tblsp of olive oil
• Good pinch of fine sea salt
• Good pinch of cracked black pepper
- FOR THE TOMATO SUGO:
- In a medium sized saucepan over medium to high heat, place in the olive oil and allow to heat for a few seconds. Then add in the onion and the good pinch of sea salt. Allow to cook for two minutes or so until the onion becomes translucent. Now add in the garlic and cook for a further minute. Add in the tomato passata, season with the black pepper, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 30 - 40 minutes or until consistency thickens, but not too thick (ensure that the sugo is a little runny so to allow the pasta rolls to absorb some liquid when cooking in the oven).
- In a 25cm casserole dish or saucepan (with a lid), pour in most of the sugo - leave aside about 1-2 cups worth of sugo. This will be used to drizzle over the dish at the end before placing in the oven to bake.
- FOR THE FILLING:
- Add all ingredients – spinach, ricotta, parsley, egg, pecorino, nutmeg, salt & pepper and mix to together. If too wet, add more pecorino cheese. Cover and set aside.
- TO MAKE PASTA DOUGH:
- Place the flours and sea salt onto your work bench (or in a medium bowl) and combine. Create a well in the centre. Crack in the 2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks. Using a fork (or hand), gently begin to whisk the eggs into the flour to incorporate. Slowly begin to pour a little of your warm water, as you whisk with your fork. You may not need all the warm water – only add if dough is dry and not forming into a dough. Bring the dough together using your hands and scraper. Knead the dough for 8 – 10 minutes until it is smooth and not too sticky. Cover with cling wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
- Once pasta has rested, set-up pasta machine to table. Divide the dough into four even pieces. Using one piece at a time (cover remaining pieces with the cling wrap or with a bowl), set the rollers at their widest (kneading) setting – 0 (zero). Feed the dough through the rollers. Fold it into thirds, turn it and feed it through the rollers again, repeating the same process 5 more times. If the pasta sheet is sticky, dust with flour.
- Turn the rollers to the next line setting – 1 (one). Feed the pasta sheet through the rollers. Dust with a little flour if it feels sticky. Only need to roll through this setting once.
- Turn the rollers to the next line setting – 2 (two). Feed the pasta through the rollers. Continue this process until you reach the 7th (seventh) line setting. You should now have a pasta dough that is smooth, fairly even & thin and rectangular long sheet. Dust the table lightly with semola or flour & lay down your sheet of pasta. Using a pasta cutter or knife, cut the long sheet of pasta into smaller lasagna size rectangle sheets of pasta (roughly about 11cm x 13cm). You can spoon the mixture or pipe it (using a piping bag) down the smallest side (11cm side) of the lasagna sheet of the pasta. Try to use about 1/3 cup (or enough to fill each log or cannelloni) of the filling mixture per lasagna sheet. Brush the other side of the pasta with a little water and roll the pasta over the filling to enclose it. Ensure to seal shut the pasta edge. Cut the log or cannelloni in half (it should roughly be about 5.5cm wide) and sit it upright in the casserole dish bathed with the cooled tomato sugo. Place the log halves relatively close together, only small amount of space between each.
- Repeat steps 2 to 4 with the remaining three pieces of pasta dough and filling until you have filled the casserole dish.
- THE FINAL STEP:
- Preheat the oven to 190°C for convention oven setting or 170°C for fan-forced.
- Once the casserole dish is filled with the cannelloni halves, pour of evenly the remaining amount of tomato sugo and sprinkle with the grated mozzarella and pecorino cheese.
- Cover the casserole dish with the lid and sit in the oven for 20-30 minutes to allow the pasta to cook in the tomato sugo and moisture created from the enclosed area. Then take the lid off the dish and allow to cook for a further 10-15 minutes until the top cheese layer is golden brown in colour.
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
- Serve with a garden salad of cos lettuce leaves, red onion, and cucumbers.