What the kids eat in… Italy

On the surface my kids are coping with moving quite well. They’re saying goodbyes and being philosophical, but I can tell from the way that their behaviour has skewed that the stress of it is taking its toll. They are both quite moody and irritable. Miss F is channelling Veruca Salt with “I want an oompa-loompa” quality turns over the colour of paint for her new bedroom. Mr M&P, who has a tendency to grumpiness, is using moving as a bit of an explain-all over his continuing outbursts.

I’m breathing deeply and understanding that they’re coping with quite a lot of loss.

High on the list of ‘Things we will miss’, are our amazingly fantastic upstairs neighbours. A retired Italian couple, when not flitting overseas they are hosting exuberant lunch parties. As the afternoons wear on and the wine and spirits flow, the Italian gets louder and more jovial and laughter booms out.

What’s not to love about a culture that rains chocolate on children? My kids have quickly learned that if they stand out in the courtyard and smile and wave endearingly, all sorts of goodies get dropped over the balcony. One time I even caught a tissue full of homemade biscuits being lowered down on string.

Italian food is such a seductive cuisine. It’s an easy-fix meal that is quick to cook and usually appeals to everyone. I’ve yet to meet a kid who doesn’t like pasta and you can use it to hide all sorts of good stuff in sauces, layered in lasagnes and tucked into tubes.

And then at the end, you can scoff a cannolli, sip amaretti and then best if you potter off for a bit of a lie down.

Cheese, pasta (and tomatoes, onions, fennel, spinach & carrot). Shhhhh.


Beef cannelloni

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves
500g lean beef mince
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 cup finely diced fennel
1 cup spinach leaves (silverbeet or English), finely chopped
400g can chopped tomatoes
2 tsp dried Italian herbs
1 cup beef stock
1 tsp sugar
700g bottle tomato passata
250g cannelloni tubes (buy the instant ones that don’t need to be boiled)
125g ricotta cheese
Grated pizza cheese
Salad and garlic bread, to serve

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and fry for a few minutes until soft. Add the garlic then the mince, breaking up lumps as you go. When the beef is just browned, add the carrot, fennel and spinach and stir well.

Mix through the tomatoes, herbs and sugar. Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer for
15 minutes. Taste and add salt and black pepper. (I LOVE heaps of pepper.)

Preheat oven to 180°C. Choose either individual gratin dishes or one 12–cup lasagne dish.
Pour a thin layer of tomato passata over the bottom of the dish. Use a small spoon to fill the cannelloni tubes with your meat mixture and line them up in the dish. Evenly pour over remaining passata and any leftover meat mixture. Dollop the ricotta about and sprinkle over as much pizza cheese as you like.

Individual portions will need to bake about 20 minutes – a larger dish for 30–35 – until the pasta is soft and the cheese is golden.

Serve with salad and garlic bread.

SERVES 2 ADULTS & 2 KIDS

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6 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Karla said,

    Mange! Mange! The Italian credo of moms to little kids everywhere.
    I hope your kids transition well into their new home. I would love neighbors that send me cookies like that!

  2. 3

    Helen-Claire said,

    Oh… My… God… I haven’t tried making cannelloni yet, this one looks amazing!

  3. 4

    I made this on the weekend, but the fennel I bought was looking a bit average so replaced it with a grated zucchini, and used 3 cubes of frozen chopped spinach instead of the fresh stuff. Super yummy.

  4. 5

    becky mcclure said,

    just picked up some Cannelloni tubes (although they are the dry ones) the other day on offer at the supermarket, keen to try them but didnt want to make the typical spinach/ricotta recipe on the box, this one has the best of both worlds!! Let you know how it goes!

    • 6

      becky mcclure said,

      Agreat dinner, a hit with all, and no one had any clue that i had hidden a whole bunch of spinach in there!!! am i the only one who feels like doing an ”evil laugh’ at the dinner table while the kiddies (and hubby) eat their hidden veggies???


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