Baked Sliced Pasta Roll Filled with Spinach

Rotolo di Pasta

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This elegant and delicious pasta dish comes from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and is a recipe I learned from my mother. It is perfect for a dinner party because it can be prepared ahead of time up to the point when it goes into the oven.

Total Time from Start to Finish: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh spinach, stems removed and thoroughly washed or 20 ounces frozen leaf spinach, thawed
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 ounces prosciutto, sliced thin
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1 ¼ cups parmigiano-reggiano, freshly grated
  • Pinch of nutmeg, grated
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Salt
  • Egg Pasta dough made with 2 eggs and 1 ½ cups flour
  • ½ recipe Béchamel
  • ½ recipe of the Simple Tomato Sauce

Method

  1. If using frozen spinach skip to step 2. If using fresh spinach, put it in a pot with ½ teaspoon salt and just the water that clings to it after washing. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until very tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the spinach and, when cool enough, squeeze the excess water out and coarsely chop it.
  2. Put the butter and onion in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and Sauté until it turns a rich golden color, about 5 minutes. Finely chop the prosciutto and add it when the onion is ready. Sauté for about minute. Add the spinach and Sauté for another 3 minutes. Do not worry if it absorbs all the butter. Transfer the contents of the pan to a mixing bowl and let it cool.
  3. When the Sautéed spinach is cool add the ricotta, 1 cup of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, the nutmeg, and the egg yolk. Mix well with a spoon until the mixture is well amalgamated then taste for salt.
  4. Roll out the pasta dough either by hand or with a pasta machine until thin enough for lasagne. If you have a hand rolled sheet square it off with a knife or, if you are using machine rolled sheets, lay out three sheets approximately 16 inches long side by side and slightly overlapping. Moisten the overlapping edges with some water and seal them together. Using a rubber spatula spread the spinach filling over the pasta sheet(s). The filling should come to no less than ½-inch from the edges and be no thicker than -inch. Roll the pasta sheet and filling like a jelly roll, pinch the ends shut then wrap it tightly in cheese cloth tying the ends with string.
  5. Fill a pot with at least 4 quarts of water, cover, and place over high heat. When the water boils, add 1 tablespoon salt and gently immerse the pasta roll. Cook at a steady boil for 20 minutes then lift it out carefully with two tongs. Unwrap it from the cheesecloth and let it cool.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400° on the regular bake setting.
  7. Cut the pasta roll with a sharp knife into ½” slices. Mix the béchamel with the tomato sauce and spread a little bit of the mixture on the bottom of a baking dish. Lay the pasta roll slices on top; it’s okay if they overlap a bit. Pour the rest of the tomato béchamel mixture over them and sprinkle the remaining Parmigiano cheese on top. Bake in the preheated oven until the top browns lightly, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

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