Cannelloni are Italian crepes wrapped around savory fillings such as meat purée or spiced cheese, then laid in a pan and baked with sauce; lasagna is a casserole built like stacked enchiladas, with layers of meat and cheese.
Combine them, and you have lasagna rolls, David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding's answer to the terrifyingly dense slabs known at the Olive Garden as “Lasagna Rollata al Forno.” While most diet cookbooks fail at replications of restaurant meals, what came out of this recipe in Cook This, Not That was surprising–and surprisingly easy to make if you have some power tools in the kitchen.
This is not the original recipe; this is the recipe as last cooked in
the OC Weekly test kitchen. Frozen spinach was unavailable, and the recipe calls for “Italian-style chicken or turkey sausage, casings removed,” which resulted in something that would have taken forever to do; the sausage remains, but with casings firmly in place and cut into bite-sized pieces.
10 standard-size lasagna noodles
2 Italian-style chicken or turkey sausage links
2 bunches fresh spinach, washed; roughly cut off the stems
1/4 tsp. red-pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
Salt and black pepper
1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
2 cups marinara sauce (from a bottle is fine, but try to avoid sugar as an ingredient)
8 oz. shredded mozzarella
1. Preheat the oven to 400º F.
2. Boil a very large pot (at least a gallon) of water, then toss in 1/4 cup of salt.
3. Boil the pasta for 8 to 9 minutes, then plunge into cold water to stop the cooking.
4. In a food processor, combine the ricotta with the spinach. You will need to go handful by handful in order to avoid overloading the machine. Don't add more spinach until the last batch is fully incorporated.
5. Add the red-pepper flakes and nutmeg, then add salt and pepper to taste. The mixture will be the bright-green color of pesto.
6. Cut each sausage in half, then each half in thirds lengthwise; make crosswise cuts to yield semi-cubical pieces.
7. Scrape the cheese-spinach mixture into a bowl and fold in the sausage pieces.
8. Cut each lasagna noodle in half crosswise.
9. Spread 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce in the bottom of a 13x9x2 baking pan with a high lip.
10. Pat the lasagna noodles dry, then add a big spoonful of the filling to the center. Fold the ends over and lay seam-side-down in the pan.
11. Spread the remaining marinara sauce over the rolls (you should be able to fit exactly 20 rolls–four rows of five rolls each–into the pan), then sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese.
12. Bake until the cheese on top is bubbly, about 25 minutes.