Vegan Sunflower Ricotta Cannelloni

Two cannelloni on a plate with tomato sauce.

The season we’ve all been longing for has finally arrived – spring. And with it, endless bird song. Refreshing rains. Earthy, wonderful smells. Flowers of all shapes and colors. And… fresh greens. Whether foraged wild greens or spinach you’ve grown yourself, those first few leaves are holy. After yet another winter of eating with the seasons, the joy knows no limits!

This recipe is fun for many different reasons. First: it features foraged nettles as the greens, and replaces the otherwise traditional spinach in spinach and ricotta cannelloni which I’m sure we’re all familiar with. Nettles are jam-packed with all sorts of nutrients, grow more or less everywhere and are – obviously – totally for free if you go pick them yourself (just remember to bring a pair of gloves). That’s a winning trio in our book. Second, we’ve experimented with a vegan alternative to the aforementioned ricotta cheese, by making a sunflower seed based concoction that we think everyone should give a try. It turned out really quite good!

In other words, this is fun version of a classic dish that we’ll return to time and time again – because yes, once nettles are a thing of the past, they can easily be replaced by spinach, chard and other mild leafy greens. A dish to return to all spring and summer long.

(PS. Another fun, delicious way of having nettles would be this one: Pasta with Nettle Pesto.)

För recept på svenska, klicka här: Vegansk cannelloni med nässlor och ricotta på solrosfrön

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

Sunflower Seed “Ricotta”

5 dl sunflower seeds, soaked for 6-8 hours
2 1/2 dl water
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic
1 tsp salt

Filling

300 g de-stemmed nettle or spinach leaves (~2 1/2 liters firmly packed leaves)
“Ricotta” from above
Black pepper

Tomato Sauce

1 medium yellow onion (~120 g), chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1000 g crushed tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

To assemble

25 cannelloni tubes (~250 g)

Instructions

  1. Sunflower seed “ricotta”. Cover the seeds with water and soak for at least 6 hours or overnight.
  2. Rinse the sunflower seeds and blend together with the rest of the ingredients. We use a hand blender but an upright blender or food processor would work as well. Blend until creamy and set aside. This can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the fridge for a couple of days.
  3. Nettles/spinach. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Using gloves, give the leaves a rinse. When the water is boiling, blanch the nettles/spinach for 1-2 minutes. Drain in a colander, and when cooled off enough, squeeze out all the excess liquid (be careful here – it’s easy to burn your fingers when the water from the center is coming out). This can be done in advance as well and stored in the fridge.
  4. Filling. Roughly chop the nettles/spinach and mix together with the sunflower seed “ricotta” and a generous grind of black pepper. Set aside.
  5. Tomato sauce. Sauté the garlic and onion in olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. After about 5 minutes, add in the crushed tomatoes. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Blend smooth using a hand blender. Season with salt and add in the sugar.
  6. Assemble. Set the oven to 190ºC. In a 18×28 cm baking dish (you’ll need 2 of these, or go for a bigger one), spread 4 tbsp of the tomato sauce on the bottom of each dish. Using a piping bag or a plastic bag with the tip cut off, fill the cannelloni with the nettle-“ricotta” filling. Arrange side by side with no gaps in a baking dish. Top with the rest of the tomato sauce and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 min. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving. 

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