Spinach And Ricotta Cannelloni With Creamy Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts

Spinach and ricotta cannelloni with goat cheese

I'm known for cooking simple and quick recipes. I like to cook but I don't enjoy spending long hours in the kitchen. My everyday recipes are quick and straight forward, usually ready in about 30 minutes. However, there are days when I 'push' myself to cook something special and a bit more complicated.

This weekend, we had friends over, and with rainy and cold weather I felt like a nice comfort pasta dish would be the perfect thing for a dinner menu. Lasagne and cannelloni fall into my 'special occasion' recipes category as they require slightly more effort. I haven't had cannelloni in years so I decided to combine my favourite spinach & ricotta ravioli recipe with cannelloni pasta. When it comes to pasta I make no compromises. If I don't have time to make my own fresh homemade pasta, I use only the best dried pasta. I can't make cannelloni at home so I used Barilla, one of my favourite pasta brands, tested and recommended by many Italians.

Apart from sharing the recipe, I also wanted to let you know that Barilla is running an exciting competition, giving away a £1,000 voucher to use towards a weekend trip to Italy for 2! To enter, you need to post a picture of a pasta dish on Barilla UK's Facebook page or on Instagram using the hashtag #OutsidetheBox and #BarillaUK. I just came back from Italy two weeks ago, but I'd go back instantly! I'm still dreaming of all the delicious pasta dishes, fresh mozzarella and amazing Italian wine!

Spinach and ricotta cannelloni with goat cheese So finally, here's the recipe.

Spinach And Ricotta Cannelloni With Creamy Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts
Serves 4

600g fresh spinach
250g ricotta
2x 125g soft goat cheese
40g grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves
2x 400g chopped tomatoes
2tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper
18 tubes Barilla cannelloni
1 tbsp pine nuts
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Heat a table spoon of olive oil over low heat in a large skillet.  Add the spinach, cover with a lid and let it wilt. You may want to do this in batches if your skillet is not large enough. Stir it occasionally until all the spinach has cooked down. Transfer into a bowl and let it cool slightly.

In the same skillet, add another table spoon of olive oil and chopped onions. Cook the onions for a few minutes until soft and translucent. Add chopped garlic, tomatoes and vinegar, bring to the boil and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

When the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze out most of the liquid into to a bowl and roughly chop the spinach. Return it to the boil with the liquid, add ricotta, one goat cheese, 1/2 of grated parmesan and stir together. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread half of the tomato sauce over the bottom of an oven proof dish  (25x30cm). Spoon the spinach mixture into a piping bag or a plastic food bag with a corner snipped off and fill all the cannelloni tubes. Lay them in the baking dish and spread the rest of the tomato sauce on top. Scatter over the second goat cheese and remaining parmesan and sprinkle with the pine nuts. Bake for 30 minutes until the top is golden. Remove from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes before serving.

Disclaimer: this recipe was created in collaboration with Barilla pasta. All opinions are my own. 

Creative Gathering in Tuscany 28-30 October 2016

We all know this. If you live a creative life there will be time when you start feeling stuck, unmotivated and tired. There are several ways of finding new inspiration and motivation. For me, the best way to start feeling inspired again is getting together with my friends. I've known Giulia and Regula for years, and despite the geographical distance among us, once in a while we manage to get together, cook, talk, laugh, eat and learn from each other. Those days are the best and always leave me re-energised and inspired to start creating again. 

This time we decided to expand our little creative gathering and bring in even more creative minds. If you are a writer, blogger, photographer or just someone who wants to meet and spend time with other like minded people we would love to meet you and spend a few days in dreamy autumnal Tuscany. 

Join us for a creative gathering which will celebrate the seasonal food and the pleasure of getting together in a quiet location in the Tuscan countryside.

Tuscany, Italy 

Three Acres – Creative Gathering

Strands of mist entangled around the branches of the trees on the hilltop. The smell of a fireplace at dusk. A whiff of roast chestnuts around every corner, a chestnut cake with rosemary, pine nuts, raisins and olive oil. Mushrooms and squash. A glug of nocino – a traditional walnut liqueur by the fire. Toasted bread with a drizzle of new olive oil and creamy beans spooned on top.
You can not find a better moment to visit the Tuscan countryside.

October 28 – 30 2016
Siena countryside, Tuscany
Nearest airport: Florence or Pisa
You can also arrive in Rome and take a train to Florence.
Max 6 participants

You can register here

What we will be up to*
You will stay at a lovely but basic agriturismo in the Sienese countryside on the outskirts of a tiny village with only a few houses. We will pick you up every day and when we are at Jul’s Kitchen we will walk there and enjoy the fresh air. Juls’ Kitchen is situated in that tiny village and is the cookery studio of Giulia Scarpaleggia who has been teaching Tuscan cookery courses and food expeditions there for over five years. The studio is cosy and features a large open plan kitchen where will will cook and eat and drink copious amounts of tea. We have a lovely big garden there with wonderful countryside views, olive trees and the company of a Maremma Sheep dog and a black cat.

We will light up the wood burning oven to make pizza, focaccia and bread, we will enjoy a spread of local vegetables and charcuterie to taste the real flavour of the countryside, we will walk under century old oaks to channel nature’s force and inspiration.

Inspired by the ‘Three Acres and a Cow’ philosophy we will visit a local organic family run cheese farm where they make a raw milk pecorino, the typical sheep milk cheese of Tuscany. After the farm we will head to Siena for a walk and dinner in one of the most well preserved medieval towns of Tuscany. There will be plenty opportunities for each student to practice the techniques learned during the weekend.
Giulia, Regula and Sarka will discuss their philosophy on styling and shooting and we will show you how to style and photograph one subject in three different styles.

Who can attend?
It is open to everyone, not just photographers and bloggers, but all creative people who want to explore different styles and deepen their visual voice.

Who are we?
Giulia is the author of 5 cookery books, she has been running Tuscan cooking classes, food excursions and workshops for 5 years from her Tuscan family home and studio Juls’ Kitchen.
She also writes an awardwinning blog Juls’ Kitchen:
Twitter & Instagram: @Julskitchen

Regula is the author of 2 books on food and drink culture. She photographs and writes for a living. She is also a graphic designer. Her focus lies with reality, this can mean natural light or going on a fishing boat at 4 in the morning to capture the essence of a situation.
Regula also writes a blog which was shortlisted for a Saveur Blog Award:
Twitter & Instagram: @MissFoodwise

Sarka has been a professional photographer for 6 years working with editorial clients in the UK and her homeland Czech Republic. She has been tutoring photography workshops for years and she is your go to girl for the technical part.
Twitter & Instagram: @Sarkababicka

The cost
The all-inclusive cost is 890 € per person

This includes:
2 nights accommodation in a countryside agriturismo in a shared double room
1 dinner on Friday at Juls’ Kitchen + 1 dinner on Saturday in a restaurant in Siena
2 lunches cooked at Juls’ Kitchen
2 breakfasts at your agriturismo
Drinks and refreshments during the weekend at Juls’ Kitchen
Transport during the weekend
All teachings and excursions (2)

Not included:
Transport to and from Italy and to the agriturismo
Anything extra you would like to purchase personally
Travel insurance
Cancellation insurance

*Note the schedule is subject to change*

Please note that we have done everything to keep the price as low as possible but as we pay each producer or business and work with beautiful local produce, the price reflects that. We want the small businesses we work with to benefit from this collaboration, not be left out of pocket because we are after a freebie. Everyone deserves to get the price they or their product is worth.
 Tuscany, SienaTuscany
Tuscany Tuscany

My First Taste Of The USA - Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Who doesn't like the excitement of first times? I feel like a kid before Christmas every time I embark on a new adventure.
I'm always ready and eager to explore a new country, taste local cuisine, learn about other cultures and meet local people. For me, that's the beauty of traveling and reason I can never stop exploring the world.
I didn't know when my first trip stateside would happen, I didn't plan one. There are so many interesting places and countries in this world I want to visit and explore. Not for any particular reason, but USA wasn't too high on my list. But things often happen when we least expect them. The same goes for my first trip to the United States in the middle of June. I was contemplating my next holiday when an invitation from Visit The USA to explore Baton Rouge, the capital of Louisiana landed in my inbox. I admit it, I had to google Baton Rouge first.
Needless to say, I didn't hesitate too long to jump on the opportunity and started planning my first trip to the States, gathering a list of places to eat in order to complete my mission - taste my way around the "Red Stick".

Baton Rouge, Loui

Although being a capital city, Baton Rouge has a small city vibe with a youthful spirit, thanks to the Louisiana State University residing there. With only two and a half days to spend and a fairly long list of places to visit, I tried to be organised. Sadly, local public transport is not as affective as it could be, so after a couple of long waits for even longer bus rides I opted for Uber. It was the easiest way to move between areas where the restaurants I wanted to visit where within reasonable walking distance. I noticed that most people don't walk in Baton Rouge and considering the hot humid climate of the region, it's quite understandable.
Being used to walking everywhere in London, I had to learn my lesson. A few hours in the hot weather determined my first stop, Draft House Bar in the downtown area, a fun place with over 100 beers to taste. It was indeed a good start to a fabulous foodie adventure.
Baton Rouge has many restaurants offering some of the freshest seafood. I completely fell in love with the local Creole and Cajun influenced cuisine. I may be slightly obsessed with prawn étouffée now.

Here's a little guide to some of my favourite spots in Baton Rouge.

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Tony's Seafood
It's a little seafood wonderland, deli and grocery store. Tony's seafood has been around since 1959. What was originally a small fruit stand selling only fresh produce quickly grew into a thriving seafood business. They sell the best fresh and boiled seafood in town including popular Louisiana Fish Fry products. The place get very busy everyday especially around lunch time but we had to queue for our Boudin balls and seafood box even in the afternoon. It was well worth it!

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Louie's Cafe
Another restaurant with a history. Five dollar shake scene from Pulp Fiction resonated in my head the second my fruit smoothie buried under a thick mountain of cream landed on the table. Opened since 1941, this cute cafe with red and white striped chairs and retro interior is open 24 hours a day. It's loved by locals and students alike due it's proximity to LSU campus. I devoured their shrimp & crawfish omelette and finished off my breakfast with a bowl of fruit salad with yogurt and nuts.

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Mike the Tiger
Baton Rouge is home to Louisiana State University (LSU) with quite an impressive campus. Of course, I couldn't resist to go and see LSU's live mascot, Mike the Tiger. Sadly, the current tiger Mike VI was recently diagnosed with cancer. He was already treated with radiotherapy but his prognosis is still terminal.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Baton Rouge, LouisianaBaton Rouge, Loui Baton Rouge, Louisiana Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Magpie Cafe
I went to this cafe twice in two days. Simply the best coffee in town (in my opinion). A local community based cafe that would easily compete in the east London hipster scene has everything you need. Filled with young people glued to their laptops, sipping cortado or fresh juice, their daily offerings include healthy seasonal soups, salads, sandwiches and pastries made using local ingredients.
I finally got to taste kombucha, a fermented tea drink, popular with US health bloggers which is still waiting for its place in the sun on the UK market.

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Frankie's Dawg House
Located right next to Magpie Cafe, this place, about the size of a backyard shed has for my European standards an innovative menu, featuring hot dogs served with peach mango salsa or small lobster. We went for the fully loaded Chuck Norris Dawg with bacon, grilled onion & jalapeños.

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City Pork Deli & Charcuterie
A meat lovers dream and perhaps my favourite place in town, also just a few steps from Magpie Cafe, City Pork Deli & Charcuterie wins bonus points for the friendliest staff. Not being a Bloody Mary fan,  their bacon and okra Bloody Mary made me reconsider this drink. Score! Wish I wasn't so full to be able to taste more of their delicious menu, however we polished off the whole charcuterie selection board.

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Sammy's Grill 
The best lunch I had in a long time was definitely at Sammy's Grill. Three pounds of local hot boiled crawfish with corn and potatoest entertained me for about an hour. We also tried blackened alligator and washed it all down with a few pints of local beer. I'm still dreaming of this lunch!

Baton Rouge, Loui

Louisiana's Old State Capitol
It's s beautiful historic government building and definitely a must see when you visit Baton Rouge. Unfortunately we didn't manage to go inside.

Baton Rouge, Loui Baton Rouge, Loui

Louisiana State Capitol
It's the current seat of government for the US state of Louisiana. A 34-story building (America's tallest state capitol) offers an arial view of Baton Rouge and the Mississippi River from the observation deck located on the 27th floor. A beautiful old elevator will take you up to the tower.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana Sarka Babicka Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Red Stick Farmers Market
If you happen to be in Baton Rouge on Saturday, don't miss the weekly morning farmers market. Although it may appear a little small, it has a plethora of fresh local produce and an inside area with a great selection of breakfast and lunch offerings. As I was walking among the vendors, I'd wished I was staying in an Airbnb with a kitchen not a hotel. I was dreaming of a plate of sliced tomatoes sprinkled with flaky sea salt and drizzled with olive oil. Luckily we were saved by delicious crepes from GoYaYa's Crêpes stand at the Main Street Market building. I don't usually eat pulled pork for breakfast but I couldn't leave without tasting The Cuban crepe!

Baton Rouge, LouisianaBaton Rouge, Loui
Baton Rouge, Louisiana Baton Rouge, Loui Baton Baton Rouge, Loui
Baton Rouge, Louisiana Baton

Parrain's Seafood
Luckily we arrived early because this Cajun seafood restaurant is very popular with locals and there's usually wait on the weekends. Still full after our market breakfast we shared a small plate of charbroiled oysters. The menu has all the authentic Cajun/Creole staples. Boudin, blackened alligator, boiled crawfish, turtle soup, crab and corn bisque, seafood gumbo, crawfish etouffée... I highly recommend BBQ'd black drum filet with dirty rice.

Baton Rouge, Loui Baton Rouge, Loui

The Chimes
Very casual and friendly bar / restaurant located right by the LSU campus. It's a lively place (a little loud) with lots of locals who come here for cheap eats, beer and sports TV. I was once again feeling quite full so I ordered a small plate of crawfish étouffée but I could have definitely eaten a large one. It was scrumptious!

Baton Rouge, Louisiana Baton Rouge, Louisiana

I wrapped up my short but amazing trip to Baton Rouge with a beautiful sunset over the Mississippi River on my last evening.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Note: My trip to Baton Rouge, Louisiana was sponsored by Visit The USA. All views are my own.