A few weeks ago while in London with my family we grabbed a quick bite to eat at the restaurant, Jamie Oliver Italian. I’m a big fan of Chef Oliver’s “better food” education efforts because it was sorely needed. However, I really had no intention of making his restaurant a destination while in the UK. I thought it would be difficult for a ‘chain’ restaurant (there are 37 locations in London) to maintain his personal stamp and I really wanted to explore other dining options (given the chance I would’ve eaten Indian food everyday!). We were in the midst of sightseeing between attractions and the children were suddenly starving. If you have children you know you need to resolve that right away! Chef Oliver has four children of his own and is known to have great kid friendly dishes. With 37 restaurant locations the opportunity easily presented itself to see what Jamie Oliver Italian had to offer.
There were a decent amount of vegetarian pasta options on the menu and I chose the Vegetable Rotolo Al Forno that is a dish comprised of seasonal pumpkin, squash & spinach. ‘Rotolo Al Forno’ seems to translate to ‘Baked Roll’ and there were pinwheels of pasta (about half the width of a lasagna noodle) filled with the pumpkin combination and topped with tomatoes, ricotta and a little parmesan cheese. The description also had ‘herby breadcrumbs’ which seemed to be Chef Oliver’s topping on several dishes. I couldn’t foresee how breadcrumbs would help the dish so I asked for the pasta without it and they obliged.
I really enjoyed this savory blend! The combination of the vegetables and cheese really worked for me and I immediately thought of incorporating it in a dish when I returned stateside. So I did! I made some changes using polenta instead of pasta, butternut squash only with no pumpkin, in addition to spinach I added collard greens, and lastly instead of using parmesan cheese I used parrano cheese. I’m really pleased with the flavors and I hope you are too!
- 16 oz Chopped Collards
- 12 oz Baby Spinach
- 20 oz Butternut Squash, cubed
- 2-24 oz tubes Polenta
- 8 oz San Marzano Tomatoes, chopped
- 1 cup Rao’s Marinara Sauce
- 64 oz Vegetable Stock
- 24 oz Ricotta cheese
- 2 tablespoons Onion Powder
- 2 tablespoons Garlic Powder
- 2 tablespoons Italian Seasoning
- 2 tablespoons Dried Basil
- Shaved Parrano Cheese
- Sea Salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Put collards in a large pot with enough vegetable stock to just cover the collards about 1/4 inch.
- Season with the onion powder, garlic powder and 2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning.
- Bring to a boil then turn to low and cook for 1.5 hours.
- Add spinach and sea salt to taste.
- Cook until the spinach is the same dark green color as the collards. The spinach should not be just wilted and bright green. It should be soft and dark. This may take approximately 30 minutes. The collards and spinach should be very soft and the same consistency.
- Drain the liquid and set aside.
- In another pot, cook the butternut squash similarly; cover with just enough vegetable stock and cook for about 20 minutes or until they are soft. No seasoning is added. Mash them to a soft consistency and put in a strainer to release the liquid.
- Slice your polenta (I like the Sun of Italy brand) in even ‘disk’ sizes. You should have at least 20 slices but you should not have more than 2 rows and 2 layers of polenta when it is all assembled.
- Mix your ricotta cheese with the dried basil and a dash of sea salt to taste.
- In a baking dish (I use size 9x13), pour the marinara sauce to cover and coat the bottom of the dish.
- Add a layer of polenta (about 8 - 10 slices).
- Top with the butternut squash and spread evenly.
- Add the collards and spinach and spread evenly on top of the butternut squash.
- Top the butternut squash with the ricotta and spread evenly.
- Top the ricotta with the remaining polenta slices.
- Add the San Marzano tomatoes evenly on top of the polenta.
- Bake for 40 minutes.
- Add Parrano Cheese and serve.