Saturday, 21 May 2011

Spinach, Rocket and Ricotta Cheese Pasta Roll- Rotolo di Spinaci e Arugola. V. Good!

Walking round the ancient temples of Paestum, Italy,  is such a joy, if you don't mind being slow roasted! The heat is so intense, you can't help feeling like a chicken, slowly roasting at a really high temperature!

Paestum, Italy

Good job Bar Anna (one of the many bars and restaurants along a parade of souvenir shops) is not far and, once out of the fence, you can relax with a glass of Martini Bianco with lots of ice! It's a welcome refreshment, I can tell you! And then you go on to Ristorante- Pizzeria delle Rose for lunch (their pasta dishes are wonderful and their pizza, too, but I'm not a massive pastry and pizza eater, fortunately!)


Anyway... there I was, walking round Paestum Temples when I thought I could smell something: wild mint, very tiny mint was growing amongst the ruins, and then I found wild thyme and finally, dulcis in fundo: masses of beautiful, fragrant arugola (rocket.) "Anybody got a bag?"

Sandra actually had a bag... a plastic bag in Paestum?

And there I was, picking wild rocket and smelling the mint and the thyme... Never mind the temples, I was in (Baudelaire) heaven! I picked rocket, my friend Sandra picket rocket, we took home so much of the stuff, we ate it with pasta and made a fantastic salad with it. It tasted good and was very, very hot! Just how we like it!

Wild rocket, which in Italy is sold by the bunch, has quite large, very long leaves and stems which can be quite wooden, so, before eating it, you have to pick each individual leaf off what is a small plant.


Arugola in Italy... looks good!

I made "Rotolo di Spinaci" today. Like I said before, in my part of Italy we only tend to use ricotta in cakes. Whereas in Campania they would use ricotta in many savoury dishes, we don't, as it makes food heavy and is not easy to digest. But... de gustibus! We prefer to use mozzarella, instead.
Well, the pasta I made does have ricotta as one of the ingredients for its filling and it works, as you don't really feel the soft consistency of the cheese when it's combined with lovely green "stuff." I didn't use just spinach for my recipe, but a mixture of baby leaves, which included rocket and some of my fresh basil. To add flavour, I added a lot of Parmesan cheese and an Italian cheese I love called Cacioricotta, made from goat's cheese. I was brave, so I also added just a little touch of red chilli, because it made the filling look beautiful! I don't know if it will spoil the delicate taste of the dish, but... we'll see!


Some of the ingredients. I love my 107 year old plates!

Rotolo di Spinaci
Serves 4
For the ricotta pasta filling

250 g (9 oz) ricotta cheese
450g (1 lb) mixed baby leaves or
spinach (can use frozen)
2 handfuls grated Parmesan
2 handfuls cacioricotta
(you could use some Manchego
or Feta, instead)
some fresh basil (optional)
small piece of red chilli
 black pepper
Put your vegetables in a pan, with just a few tablespoons of water, lid on (or defrost your frozen spinach and cook.) This will only take five minutes. Don't let it burn! Drain any liquid out, as the vegetables need to be dry. Next, add all the other ingredients, blend together with a fork and set aside to cool.


fresh spinach and arugola

My red chilli makes it look special!

Make your pasta dough
Serves 4
400 g plain flour
1 egg
cup of warm water
some salt
If you are feeling lazy, you can put all the dry ingredients in a mixer, add some warm water and mix into a soft, but firm dough. If it feels too soft, just add more flour. Mix until you get a ball of firm dough, place onto a board, drench with more flour and roll out into a large circle. This doesn't need to be too thick.

It looks like pizza!

Next, place all the ricotta mixture in the middle of this, spread with the back of a spoon, then roll into a "sausage" as if you were making a Swiss Roll. Fold both ends over, then tightly wrap in foil.

Your pasta roll

In a large pot, bring some water to the boil, place your wrapped pasta in the pot (if it's easier, you can make two smaller "sausages, rather than one big one. This is what I did) and cook for a good 20-25 minutes. When cooked, take the "packages" out of the pan and slice, as you would a Swiss roll, about 3 cm, just over 1''  high. Your pasta should be looking really "joyful" by now.


I also made some pasta with artichoke and garlic filling

Extremely easy tomato sauce
Few glugs olive oil
1 onion
1 1/2 to 2 cartons passata
fresh basil
black pepper
parmesan cheese
I made a very simple tomato sauce using one chopped onion fried in piping hot olive oil, as a base.

Nice and easy tomato sauce

To this I added 1 1/2 cartons of passata, fresh basil and grated cheese and then seasoned with salt. I cooked this for a good 25-30 minute. Remember that passata and any kind of tinned tomatoes are NOT cooked and that, in order to make an edible sauce this has to cook for at least 25 minutes. If you make too much sauce, never mind, as it tastes good on plain old pasta!

Now you are ready to assemble the dish!
Cover the base of an ovenproof dish with tomato sauce, (if this is too thick, you need to dilute it with some warm water) then  make a layer of sliced pasta, cover with more sauce, sprinkle Parmesan all over and then bake (200 C, gas 6, 425 F) until it's bubbling and the top of the dish is beginning to brown.

My lovely old dish
Serve hot, as a first course or a main course, if you prefer. It's a really delicate dish and does look wonderful on the table. The kind of think to be shared with friends! I never serve individual portions, so people can just help themselves! 


A portion for one
It actually has a delicate flavour


  1. That looks SO delicious, I love the photographs and the recipe!

  2. It tasted delicious, too, Jane!