This was one of the first dishes I have learned to prepare: I was not even 15 years old and just finished the first year of accountant Institute in my own town: in one of these life moments that change the history of every one of us, I told my mother that I want to be a Chef. It was the spring of 1978. A good friend of my uncle Camillo was the owner, together with his brother, of the Hotel City in Casalmaggiore (CR). The Hotel had also a Restaurant well known in the area for big celebrations, especially weddings. To make a long story short, I spend the entire summer there in order to understand if my willingness to be a Chef was the right decision or just an adolescent stupid wish. Here I am after 42 years, still with the same passion.
And now…… let’s go cooking!
It seems “Swallows nest pasta” to be an original recipe from the little country of San Marino. In Italian, it is called “Nidi di Rondine” which translates to swallows’ nest and it gets the name because the rolled-up pasta somewhat resembles a swallow’s nest.
Servings: 4 to 6 portions
Cooking time: 25-30 minutes in a preheated oven
Preparation time: 1-hour approx.
Serving time: 10 minutes
Difficulty: somehow tricky. There are several steps, but they are not difficult, and putting it all together is fun. Why not involve the family in the process? Make the pasta dough, burble the sauces, roll out the dough and cook it up, top the pasta, roll, and cut. Top it with yet more cheese and pop it in the oven.
Ingredients Swallows Nest Pasta:
- 6 pasta sheets like for lasagna (400 gr. Of pasta dough approx.)
- 1 lt. bechamel
- 500 gr. Kale
- 1 garlic clove
- 100 ml extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 500 gr. Tomato sauce
- 200 ml. Fresh cream
- 200 gr. Parmigiano Reggiano + to sprinkle on top
For the Bechamel:
- 120 gr. all-purpose flour
- 100 gr. butter
- 1 lt. whole milk
- grated nutmeg to your taste
- salt to taste
How to prepare Swallows Nest Pasta
For the béchamel
- Melt butter in a saucepan, add flour, and mix well. Add the milk and whisk well. Place the pan over moderate-high heat.
- Keep whisking until sauce thickens.
- Season with salt, and nutmeg
For the kale
1. Pour the extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan over moderate high heat, add the garlic cloves cut in pieces (or just keep it whole if you want to remove at the end of the preparation).
2. Stir fry for few minutes, add the kale cut in piece
3. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Add some water, cover, and allow to cook for at least 20 minutes.
5. Taste and reserve.
To prepare the pasta noodles
- Cook a few lasagna pieces at a time in salted boiling water.
- Remove with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen towels.
- Turn them over to dry on both sides.
- Preheat the oven to 180º C.
Putting it all together
- Mix the tomato sauce with fresh cream. Coat the bottom of a large baking dish with half of the tomato mixture.
- Spread a layer of béchamel on the pasta pieces, then cover with the cooked kale and sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top.
- Roll up each piece into a cylinder. Place them close together cut side up in a baking dish. Continue the process until the dish is full.
- Cover with the remaining tomato mixture. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano and place in the preheated oven.
- Bake in the oven at 180°C for 30 minutes or until the top of the “roses” are crisp and golden.
Now pour yourself a lovely Sangiovese and toast the new year.
Some extra advise:
This is not the traditional Nidi di rondine: the classical recipe is with cooked ham and cheese and with a marinara sauce
Vegetarian? leave out the ham and include any vegetable that are in season, like spinach or mushrooms.
In a hurry? Try using ricotta instead of bechamel and fresh lasagna sheets from your grocer’s refrigerator section.
Bottom line? No matter how you roll it, the oven will forgive you any mistake and Nidi Di Rondine wants to be a part of your life.
Refrigeration? Yes, you can keep it for a maximum of 2 days in the fridge cover un plastic film, or in an airtight container.
Deep freezer? Yes, when the rolls are ready you may deep freeze them. Defrost them 24 hours before use and finish as per recipe.
Prepare in advance? Yes, you may prepare them the day before and keep them in the fridge.