“Rotolo is a really unusual pasta dish. It takes a little longer than some other pastas, but it’s worth the effort because it’s such a joy to eat – a real showstopper if you want to turn heads. The one thing I would advise, though, is that you practise making it the week before your party! And make sure you have a very large pan or, even better, a fish kettle in which to cook it. (This is the dish that actually got me into writing books and doing all that sort of business, as it’s what I was cooking in the background of a documentary when I was spotted all those years ago, so it’s pretty close to my heart!) ”
Halve, deseed and chop the butternut squash into big chunks and rub them with a little olive oil.
Bash up the coriander seeds, fennel seeds and chilli in a pestle and mortar with a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
Dust this mix over your pieces of squash, then put them into a snug-fitting ovenproof dish or roasting tray, covered with a dampened piece of greaseproof paper.
Pop the tray into the oven for about 30 minutes, then remove the paper and let the squash roast for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden.
While this is cooking, pick the marjoram or oregano leaves, discarding the stalks, and peel and finely slice the garlic.
Get a large pan nice and hot and add a little olive oil, the herb leaves and sliced garlic. Move it all around for 20 seconds, then add the spinach.
Water will cook out of it as it heats up – this is fine, though, as we will cook it away. Using a pair of tongs, keep the spinach moving quickly around the pan, then after a minute add a couple of knobs of butter and a good grating of nutmeg and stir it around a bit more. Keep cooking until the moisture has cooked away then season to taste and allow to cool.
To roll out your pasta either use a pasta machine to give you 4 or 5 long sheets (15cm x 30cm wide) and stick them together using a little water, or you can do what I do and use a rolling pin on a large surface, dusting with flour on top of and underneath the dough. Have a go at both ways.
Keep it in a rectangular shape but trim it as necessary. Roll out to the thickness of a beer mat and the size of a tea towel, then lay it out on top of a clean tea towel.
Once you’ve done this, spoon a line of squash along the long edge of the sheet nearest you.
Sprinkle the spinach over the rest of the sheet, leaving the top 5cm of the pasta sheet clear.
Crumble the ricotta over the spinach, finely grate over the Parmesan and you’re ready to begin rolling!
Brush the last clear edge of the pasta sheet with a little water then, working carefully, use the nearest edge of the tea towel to roll the pasta up and away from you, like a Swiss roll.
Roll the rotolo up in the tea towel and tie it firmly at each end using some string. You can secure the sausage shape even further by tying some more round the middle if you want. Tie a little extra string at one end so it can hang out of the cooking pot and act as a handle.
Now, to cook the rotolo, get your fish kettle or very large pan with a lid and fill it with boiling salted water.
Lower the rotolo in and use the fish kettle rack on top to keep it submerged. If using a saucepan, hold the rotolo down with a plate. Simmer for about 25 minutes.
While it’s cooking, you need to clarify some butter. To do this, take the remaining butter and place it in an ovenproof dish in the oven on a low plate-warming temperature (80°C). Over the next 10 to 15 minutes it will melt and you’ll see that the milky whey will sink to the bottom.
Discard any white bits floating on the top, then spoon out the clear golden butter and put to one side. Discard the whey. You won’t need all the butter now, but it’s quite hard to clarify any less than this – you can leave the extra in the fridge to use for your roast potatoes another day.
Now you’ve removed the whey from the butter, you can heat it up more aggressively. So put about 3 tablespoons of your clarified butter into a pan and heat it up. Test to see if the butter is hot enough by adding a sage leaf to it. If it fries nicely, add the rest of the leaves and fry for about 30 seconds until they begin to crisp up. Then remove from the heat and put to one side.
When the rotolo is ready, carefully remove it from the pan, take the string off, unroll it and slice it up – a couple of slices per portion.
Scatter a few sage leaves over the top, drizzle with a little of your sage-flavoured butter, and finish off with a grating of Parmesan. Unbelievable!