I have been cooking this Italian classic for years.  I used to make it without the bechamel but it was always slightly lacking for me……a little on the dry side but fantastic if you were counting calories.  Unfortunately calorie counting isn’t a part of my genetic make-up.  I live by many philosophies, some of them being……you are here for a good time, not a long time.  You are a long time dead.  Live fast, die young……leave a good looking corpse.  Calorie, schmalorie… name a few.  This is NOT too ridiculously calorie laden by any means, but it is certainly to die for.

Prep time:  40 minutes                Cooking time:  1 hour 15 minutes (including oven time)       $ Low Budget

Serves 6 generously (freezes well to make another weeknight meal for 2)

800gm of ricotta

100gm of greek fetta, crumbled

500gm of frozen spinach (2 boxes), thawed and squeezed of all excess water

1 cup of basil leaves, finely chopped

1/2 cup of finely grated parmesan

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1/2 a fresh grated nutmeg or 1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg

2 egg yolks

Sea Salt and cracked pepper

375gm packet of fresh lasagne sheets, each sheet cut into thirds

1/2 cup of grated parmesan, for the topping

1/2 cup of grated mozarella, for the topping

A sprinkle of dried oregano

For the Sauce:

Olive oil for frying

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp of dried oregano

1/2 cup of dry white wine

700gm jar of tomato sugo

1/2 cup of basil leaves finely chopped

1/2 tsp of sugar

Sea salt and cracked pepper

For the Bechamel

40gm of butter

1 tbs of plain flour

500ml of warm milk (I heat mine gently in the microwave for 40seconds)

1/2 cup of grated parmesan

1/4 freshly grated nutmeg or 1/4 tsp of ground nutmeg

Sea salt and cracked black pepper

To make the tomato sauce, heat a large saucepan, add a little oil and lightly fry the garlic and oregano for approximately 40 seconds or until aromatic.  Add the wine and allow to reduce a little before pouring in the tomato sugo.  Stir well then add the sugar, basil and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and allow to simmer gently for 5 or so minutes.

To make the bechamel, melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan and add the flour, nutmeg and salt and pepper.  Whisk well and allow the flour mixture to cook for 1-2 minutes.  Gently pour in half the milk, whisking constantly until the mixture starts to thicken and then add the rest of the milk.  Continue whisking until the mixture starts to simmer and thicken.  If the mixture is too thick, simply add a little more milk.  Add the cheese and whisk until melted.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.  For the cannelloni filling, place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper.   Remember to remove your wedding bands and get your hands in there to really combine the mixture well.

To assemble, spoon approximately 1/2 of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a large lasagne dish.  Place one of the cut lasagne sheets, short end towards you, on a cutting board.  Place a tablespoon of the mixture on the sheet and roll up making sure the filling goes all the way to the ends.  if not spoon a little bit in the ends.  Repeat with the remaining lasagne sheets.  I usually get 2 columns of 9 rolls.  Pour over the remaining tomato sauce and then pour over the bechamel.  Top with the remaining cheese and sprinkle over a little dried oregano.  Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes or until golden and bubbling.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before dishing up, it seems to make it a little easier.  Serve with a fresh garden salad.