‘I’m a Chef, and This Is My Favorite Healthy Pasta Recipe’

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With all of us in the U.S. nearly a year into the pandemic—and that jerk Punxsutawney Phil predicting six more weeks of winter—now seems as good a time as any to curl up inside with a big bowl of comforting, homemade pasta. If you're sick of the boxed stuff, or just looking for more recipes to add to your rotation, might we suggest trying out something different: a veggie-forward cannelloni.

Cannelloni are essentially cylindrical lasagna. The cannelloni pasta shells are typically stuffed with ricotta and spinach and/or meat, then topped with a marinara sauce and baked. It's delicious in its own right, but on the latest episode of Well+Good's show Cook With Us, founder of Tepuy Collective and chef Adriana Urbina shows how to make a leek cannelloni with vegetables in place (plus guidance for substitutes if you don't eat meat or dairy). It's one of her favorite recipes because "it's very very light, but you feel like you're eating pasta," she says. Thanks to the veggies, the dish is also packed with fiber (which is great for gut and digestive health) and tastes warm and comforting.

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In Urbina's version, leek takes the place of pasta shells, then stuffs it with a winter squash carbonara. Then instead of a marinara, she uses a green leek sauce to add a boost of color and flavor to the dish. (Note: while the recipe does call for ingredients like bacon and cheese, she offers substitutions for if you're vegetarian or vegan.)

The end result after everything is baked is a super delicious aromatic dish that's packed with nutrient-rich veggies—perfect for a cold, cozy evening watching Bling Empire. Want to make it? Watch the video above, and keep reading to get the full recipe.

Leek cannelloni with winter squash carbonara


For the "cannelloni" shells and filling:
3-4 thick leeks, rinsed
1 1/2 cups of ricotta
1 tsp salt
Zest of 1 lime
1 Tbsp thyme
1 tsp garlic powder

For the winter squash carbonara:
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup leek, green leaves
3 slices bacon (or 1 cup of thinly chopped mushrooms if vegetarian)
2 cups of butternut squash, chopped
2 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup of thick coconut milk
1/3 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Olive oil, for drizzling

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F

2. Cut the leeks into 4-inch long pieces and carefully push out the inner layers (set aside for later use). leaving 2-layer hollow tubes that look like cannelloni. You’ll need about 12 tubes. Reserve the leftover leeks for the winter carbonara.

3. Chop all the leek leftovers, then set aside.

4. Combine all the filling ingredients (ricotta, salt, lime zest, thyme, garlic powder, and chopped leek) in a bowl and mix very well.

5. Fill up a Ziploc bag with the ricotta mixture and set aside for assembly.

6. Next, make the carbonara: Cook bacon or mushrooms in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat (reducing heat slightly if needed) until browned and crisp.

7. Remove bacon while leaving 2 Tbsp. rendered bacon fat in the skillet. Transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towels, chop and set aside

8. Add onions to drippings in skillet and saute over medium-high heat for 2 minutes, then add squash and leeks, season with salt and pepper and cook, tossing occasionally for 7 minutes until onions start to lightly brown.

9. Add in garlic and cook, tossing occasionally, for about 2 minutes

10. Pour in all the coconut milk and the 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese; cook for 8 minutes.

11. Transfer mixture to a blender, blend until mixture is smooth.

12. Fill the leek "cannelloni" with the ricotta mixture, using a teaspoon or a reusable plastic bag to help you fill them. Line filled leek shells in a lightly greased ovenproof baking dish.

13. Pour the winter squash carbonara over the cannellonis. Drizzle with olive oil, then top with Parmesan, cooked bacon (or mushrooms), and more salt and pepper.

14. Bake for 25 mins until the cannelloni are tender and golden.

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