This Corsican Brocciu Cheese Lasagne is my lazy gourmet way of cooking the Corsican classic dish of Cannelloni au Brocciu. Can’t find brocciu? Then use a good ricotta.
However, you’ll never look at a spinach and ricotta lasagna the same way after tasting this version! There’s at least one vital ingredient that sets it apart from the others: mint. Just don’t tell the neighbours in Antoine’s hilltop village in Corsica that I told you.
Cannelloni au Brocciu – A Popular Corsican Classic
Cannelloni au Brocciu is either served as a starter/entrée or as a main course and is just about on every menu in traditional Corsican restaurants. Although it’s around all year, the Corsican signature cheese, Brocciu, is really only available between November and May-June. If you see it on menus over the summer months, don’t scoff like my Corsican mother-in-law does: you’ll probably be getting a delicious substitute of soft ewe’s milk cheese, Brousse, or ricotta instead.
So, if you can’t find brocciu cheese to make this, don’t worry: a good quality ricotta will do nicely – just add a good pinch of salt to it. For more about brocciu cheese, see my post on Fiadone, Corsican Brocciu Cheesecake, which is the most classic of Corsican desserts.
As in many Corsican recipes, blette or swiss chard is used.
Can’t find this easily? A good substitute is spinach.
Using fresh lasagne sheets and piling on the toppings is in the same taste league and it’s so much quicker and less fiddly than stuffing dried cannelloni tubes or rolling up fresh lasagne sheets. If you want to make your own pasta from scratch, here’s my recipe for fresh egg pasta noodles, that uses up some yolks so you can make your macarons with the whites!
“I would recognise Corsica with my eyes closed…”
Napoleon Bonaparte (born in Corsica)
Napoleon Bonaparte was referring to Corsica’s Maquis, the distinctive Mediterranean shrub-land that covers the island, full of wild herbs and flowers that emanate the most incredible fragrance: it’s a mix of woody, smoky notes that can’t be equaled anywhere else in France.
Herb Tip to Make it Taste of Corsica
As with many Corsican dishes, a good amount of herbs are used that are found growing wild in the undergrowth of Corsica’s Maquis or bush. The best tasting I had of this dish was in Rogliano, a tiny village at the most northern point of the “Island of Beauty’s” Cap Corse. Their secret was the addition of fresh mint to the filling. Since then, I always add it to this dish. You’ll see: it makes all the difference, secretly tucked inside.
Nepita, a typical Corsican herb from the maquis is also used in Corsican cooking: it’s a mixture of peppermint and oregano and added to tomato ragouts and stews, such as this Veal Stew with Peppers.
Corsican Brocciu Lasagne vs Cannelloni au Brocciu
Using fresh lasagne sheets makes this dish a bit quicker and easier to make. However, if you have more time and are not put off by stuffing dried cannelloni tubes, then this will be more authentic. Luckily, Lucie is my willing helper in the kitchen who adores stuffing the tubes while listening to I Muvrini singing. Just listen to them and be transported to the Île de Beauté!
Corsican Brocciu Lasagne
- 500 g (18oz) Swiss Chard (or spinach, fresh/frozen) 2 bunches
- 500 g (18oz) Brocciu Cheese or Ricotta with 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 Organic eggs
- 2 tbsp Fresh mint leaves chopped
- good pinch salt, pepper to taste
- pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 4-5 organic tomatoes (or a tin of good quality chopped tomatoes) peeled and chopped
- 1 medium onion
- 1 tbsp tomato purée (concentrate)
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 10-sheet pack fresh lasagne sheets (no pre-cook, bake only) or dried cannelloni tubes (add 20 mins to baking)
- Cut the leaves from the swiss chard, if using, and cook in salted boiling water for 5 minutes (same for fresh spinach. If using frozen, follow packet instructions). Drain well, leave to cool then chop finely.
- Make the tomato sauce: gently fry the onion in olive oil on medium heat for about 10 minutes. As soon as translucent, add the garlic, tomatoes, purée and thyme. Boil quickly then reduce the heat and simmer (uncovered), for about 10 minutes. Remove the thyme stalk.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6/180°C fan.In a large bowl, mash the cheese with a fork and gradually mix in the cooled chopped swiss chard/spinach leaves, eggs, mint, nutmeg, salt and pepper.Lightly oil an oven dish large enough to fit the lasagne sheets.
- Spoon on a thin layer of tomato sauce, cover with a lasagne sheet, then top with a layer of the cheese and mint mixture. Continue each layer of lasagne and cheese mixture until the last lasagne sheet, then top with the rest of the tomato sauce.
- Top with some grated parmesan and bake for about 20-25 minutes (if using dried cannelloni tubes, add another 20 minutes to baking time).