“This is cannelloni, but not like you’ve seen before! I’m swapping out the traditional slow-cooked tomato ragù for a sauce that is creamy, comforting and perfect for a weekend treat. It’s similar to a bechamel sauce, but we’re packing it with flavour. For the mince, I’ve gone for a mix of rose veal and pork shoulder here. Good British rose veal is a really smart and sustainable choice of meat, but is chronically underused here in the UK. Now, the sauce might look like it’s split a little when you take it out of the oven, but this is actually what we’re looking for – the milk in the sauce creates amazing, ricotta-like curds as it cooks. Finally, although it will be a struggle, it really is important to let the cannelloni rest after baking, as it makes it much easier to portion up – so give it a full 30 minutes! ”
Peel and finely chop the onions, garlic and celery. Cut off the green part of the leeks (save for making stock or soup), then trim, wash and finely chop the white part. Peel and chop the potatoes into ½cm dice.
Place the butter and 1 tablespoon of oil into a large pan over a low heat, add the onion, garlic, celery, leek, bay and thyme, tying the thyme with string to keep it in a bunch. Cover and sweat down for 15 minutes, or until softened.
Add the minced veal and pork to the pan, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as you go. Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook for 10 minutes, or until the mince is browned all over, stirring occasionally.
Pour in the wine and let it bubble away, then finely grate in half the nutmeg. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute, then pour in the milk. Season with sea salt and black pepper, cover with a scrunched-up piece of wet greaseproof paper and transfer to the oven for 2 hours, or until thickened and beautifully tender.
When the time’s up, divide the ragù in half and freeze half for another day. Carefully drain the liquid from the remaining ragù into a bowl through a coarse sieve. Fish out and discard the thyme stalks and bay, then grate in half the cheeses and stir well.
Turn the oven up to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4.
For the greens, place a large heatproof baking dish on a medium heat and drizzle in 2 tablespoons of oil and add the butter.
Peel and finely chop the garlic and add to the dish with the nettles, spinach and chilli flakes – you’ll need to work in batches. Cook for 10 minutes, or until softened. Allow to cool, then finely chop and return to the dish, spreading evenly over the base.
Stuff the cannelloni tubes with the mince, using a piping bag or teaspoon, then arrange on top of the nettles and spinach. Pour the sieved liquid over the top and grate over the remaining cheese.
Trim and finely slice the mushrooms, then scatter over the cannelloni. Drizzle over 1 tablespoon of oil and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. If you like a bit more colour in the top, pop under the grill for a few minutes, to finish.
Leave to stand for 30 minutes before serving – delicious with a seasonal salad.