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Stuffed Pasta Roll

Stuffed Pasta Roll

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Serves 10 to 12.
By Dennis W. Viau; modified from a recipe in The Fine Art of Italian Cooking by Giuliano Buglialli.

This Pasta Roll comes from an Italian cookbook and anything Italian is going to taste delicious as far as I am concerned. I love Italian food. The original recipe is extremely complicated, but I came up with a recipe that is not only a lot easier, the end result looks better and tastes as good.

Ingredients:

For the Pasta:
12 pieces of dry lasagne (from a 1 pound (454g) box), preferably with ruffled edges
For the Balsamella (AKA Besciamella or Béchamel) Sauce:
3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces/43g) butter; whole, unsalted, or clarified (I prefer clarified butter)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups (710ml) milk
¼ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
For the Filling:
2 pounds (900g) fresh spinach
1 pound (454g) ricotta cheese; drained if wet
3 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup (4 ounces/113g) freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
6 ounces (170g) prosciutto; minced or diced
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Remove the larger stems from the spinach and discard. Rinse the leaves well. Place about ¼ cup water in a saucepan or stock pot large enough to contain the spinach and bring to a boil. Add the spinach, cover, reduce heat to low, and let cook 4 to 5 minutes. Use tongs to turn the spinach, exposing any raw leaves that might be in the center, and cook another 4 to 5 minutes. Drain and cool in a colander. When cool, use your hands to squeeze out excess liquid. Press between layers of paper towels to extract more moisture. Chop well and place in a large bowl. Add the ricotta, eggs, yolks, cheese, prosciutto, and nutmeg. Mix well. Adjust for salt and pepper, if necessary. Cover and set aside (refrigerate if you will be returning to this recipe later).

To prepare the balsamella, melt the butter in a saucepan (a heavy-bottomed saucepan is best) over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and add the flour, stirring to mix well. Cook over low heat about 1 minute, just enough to cook the flour but not darken it. Remove from the heat and let cool about 10 minutes. When cool, add the nutmeg and pepper, stir well, and add the milk, a little a time at the start, stirring constantly to mix well. Return the pan to medium-low heat and bring just to a light boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Be sure to stir into the corners of the pan to prevent scorching. When cooked, set aside to cool. To prevent a skin forming on the surface of the balsamella, carefully place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the sauce.

Heat water to boiling in a large sauce pan or stock pot. Cook the lasagne according to package directions (usually 8 to 9 minutes). When cooked, drain and rinse with cold water, or place in a bowl of cold water.

Place a piece of cooked lasagna on the counter. Spoon spinach mixture onto it, spreading it to within about 1 inch from one end. Starting at the other end, roll up the pasta, enclosing the filling. Insert a toothpick to hold it together. Continue with the remaining lasagne.

Heat oven to 375°F (190°C). Place the rolls on end in a well-buttered rectangular glass baking dish. Cover each with balsamella, reserving some sauce for garnish at the table. Bake 30 to 35 minutes on a center rack, until the top is lightly browned.

Remove the toothpick and serve with additional balsamella (and grated cheese, if desired) on the side for garnish.