Taking Shavuot dishes to another level
SPINACH AND RICOTTA CANNELLONI
This is a really simple dish which looks professional. The disposable piping bags from Woolies work beautifully, or you can use a Ziploc with the tip cut off.
I make a basic Napoletana sauce, but if you’re pushed for time, buy a ready one that you like. If you do make it, double the quantity and freeze half. You will thank me!
For the Napoletana sauce
- 1 onion
- 1 clove garlic
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 tins diced chopped tomatoes
- 1 tsp salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup chopped basil
For the cannelloni
- 2 boxes cannelloni shells
- 3 tubs of ricotta cheese
- 5 packets spinach
- Grated nutmeg
Chop the onion and garlic finely and cook it in the olive oil on a low heat until translucent. I like to do this slowly rather than browning the onions.
Add the tomatoes, and cook for 20 minutes. Add the chopped basil, and cook for another 10 minutes. Process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
Blanche the washed spinach until it wilts. I don’t add water to the pot as the water from rinsing the spinach is sufficient. Keep stirring though, so that the bottom doesn’t burn. You may need to do this in two or three batches. Squeeze the water out of the spinach in a strainer by pushing down on it with a wooden spoon, and chop finely in a food processor. Add the ricotta cheese a tub at a time until you have a good white to green ratio. It’s normally three tubs. Season to taste.
Ladle a scoop of the Napoletana into a casserole dish so that the bottom of the dish is lightly coated with sauce. Cut the tip off your piping bag, and fill it with the spinach mix. Holding a shell in your left hand squirt the mixture into the shell. I do one end and then the other. Keep going until your dish has a single complete layer. Top with Napoletana sauce, and some grated cheese.
It can be frozen or baked covered at 160 degrees centigrade for 30 minutes, and then uncovered at 170 degrees centigrade for another 15 minutes.
RICOTTA CHEESECAKE WITH DRIED FRUIT COMPOTE
For the crust
- 1 cup roughly crushed walnuts
- ¼ cup flour
- 3 tbsps sugar
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 tbsps unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- ½ tsp vanilla essence
For the filling
- 560g cream cheese, at room temperature (sorry about the 60 – but you need it)
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- 2 punnets of Woolworths ricotta (about 4 cups)
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 1 tbsp Amaretto (or Cointreau, I guess)
- 1 tbsp Maizena
- 2 tsps orange zest
For the topping
- 500g dried pears, apples, and peaches
- Zest of 1 orange peeled in 1 long snake if you can
- Juice of 3 oranges
- 2 cups water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 cloves
- 1 star anise
- ¼ cup honey
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees centigrade, and set an oven rack in the middle position. Spray a 23cm springform pan with non-stick cooking spray, dust it evenly with flour, and tap out any excess.
To make the crust: place the walnuts, flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Process until the nuts are finely chopped and the mixture looks sandy. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, cooled melted butter, and vanilla. Add the liquid mixture to the nut mixture, and pulse several times until the ingredients are well combined, moistened, and crumbly. Place the mixture into the prepared pan and, using your fingers, press into an even layer. Place the pan in the freezer for 10 minutes (or the fridge for 15-20 minutes) to chill; then bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crust is lightly golden.
Meanwhile, make the filling: combine the cream cheese, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Process until soft and creamy, about one minute. Add the ricotta, and process until the mixture is smooth and light, another two minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, processing for 5-10 seconds between each addition. Add the vanilla, Amaretto, Maizena, and orange zest, and process until the mixture is just combined (don’t overmix).
Pour the filling into the crust, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake the cheesecake for about 50 minutes, until the top is lightly golden and the edges are set. Don’t worry if the centre seems soft, it will set. Carefully remove the cheesecake from the oven, and allow it to cool completely before loosening the edges with a knife. This stops the cake from cracking. Place in the fridge overnight or for at least eight hours.
For the topping: after the cake has chilled, using a fine sieve, dust the top of the cake with icing sugar. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
For serving: remove the sides of the springform pan. Serve the cheesecake right from the base of the pan, or transfer it to a serving platter, run a long, thin spatula between the crust and the pan bottom, and then use two large spatulas to transfer the cheesecake carefully to a serving dish. Slice with a sharp knife, wiping the knife clean between slices. The cake keeps well for several days.
The cheesecake may also be frozen without the topping for up to three months. To freeze: place the cake in the freezer briefly, unwrapped, to firm it up. Then double wrap it tightly with foil.
Make the compote by soaking the fruit for an hour in some cold water. After soaking, drain the fruit and boil all the ingredients in a saucepan for 40 minutes or until the fruit is soft but not mushy. Cool, and then use the fruit to garnish your cake.