300g (10 oz) spinach, (English or baby variety)
1 brown onion, peeled + diced
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
500g (1lb 2oz) free-range pork mince
1/4 cup (62.5ml) verjuice
1/3 cup pine nuts
10 medium to large sage leaves, finely chopped
250ml ricotta cheese
Salt + freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
50g Pecorino cheese, grated
1/3 cup verjuice
Good pinch ground white pepper
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
YOU WILL ALSO NEED
Large handful pecorino cheese, grated
4-5 sage leaves for garnishing
Ready to cook cannelloni pasta sheets (these normally come pre-cut to approx 8cm x 12 cm)
Pre-heat oven to 180˚C/350˚F.
De-seed pumpkin, peel and cut flesh into rough chunks. Place on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper, season with salt and black pepper then drizzle with olive oil. Roast in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until pumpkin is soft in the middle when tested with a knife. Remove from oven and allow to cool a little before removing pumpkin and mashing into a pulp with a fork.
Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Into the pot add the onion and garlic and sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring often until onion is soft and opaque. Add the pork mince and chopped sage and cook until meat has browned (about 5-6 minutes). When browned, add 1/4 cup verjuice and stir to combine. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper then simmer over low-medium heat for a further 5-6 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup water to a medium-sized saucepan or pot, bring to the boil then add the spinach along with a pinch of salt. Cook at a high simmer for 4-5 minutes or until the spinach is wilted. Drain and rinse thoroughly under cold, running water, drain again and place into a clean tea towel, squeezing out as much excess water as possible. Chop spinach finely then add to the pork mince along with the ricotta cheese, pine nuts and mashed pumpkin.
To make the bechamel sauce, add butter into a large non-stick saucepan and melt over medium heat. When butter has melted add in the flour and whisk together to form a roux. I quite like to use a stick mixer to make a bechamel sauce as I find it quicker, requires less elbow grease and produces a smooth result.
Pour milk in stages into roux whisking as you go, until all the milk is used and you have a smooth lump free sauce. At this stage add the verjuice and wine along with a pinch of ground white pepper and a small grating of fresh nutmeg, whisk to combine. Simmer sauce over a low to medium heat until thickened and has a consistency of smooth custard.
To assemble the cannelloni, pour half of the bechamel sauce into a baking dish measuring approximately 30cm x 20cm x 5cm. Spoon the pork mixture into a large pipping bag fitted with a 1.5cm round nozzle. Lay cannelloni sheets out on a flat surface and pipe two lines of pork mixture onto each sheet and roll up. Place each filled canneloni tube into the baking dish and repeat until all tubes are complete in a single layer, and the dish is full, cover with remaining bechamel sauce and two generous handfuls of pecorino cheese along with some fresh sage leaves for garnish.
Bake in the oven for 40-45 mins until top is golden brown and bubbling.
Serve with a green salad with an Italian vinaigrette dressing.