Nidi di Rondine – Heaven in Every Bite
Nidi di Rondine or in English: “Swallows Nests”, look like delicious little pasta roses. This delectable dish comes from San Marino. Never having heard of San Marino myself, I was curious. San Marino is a Microstate completely landlocked by Northern Italy. It was founded in 301, and its constitution was enacted in 1600, making it the oldest constitution in the world still in effect.
If I’m dreaming about Italy, this perfectly sets the scene.
Swallow’s Nest Pasta
I came across Nidi di Rondine on a few websites. When cooked, the dish resembles a Swallow’s Nest, hence the name. It is comprised of lasagna noodles, Bechamel sauce, fontina cheese, a leafy green herb or vegetable like basil or spinach, and tomato sauce. The noodles are laid flat and assembled then rolled.
I based my original recipe on two other blogs’ versions of the dish. Since then I’ve altered it a bit, partially based on my own sauces, partially based on what I have on hand because I forgot to add other items to the grocery list.
- Noodles – While the newer “ready to bake” noodles are convenient in lasagna itself, you want the traditional Lasagna noodles since you’ll need to boil these to soften them for rolling. I haven’t tried boiling one of the ready to bake noodles yet to see if it falls apart at all. A test for another day.
- Marinara/Tomato Sauce- You can go canned or jarred if you want since it’s such a small amount. However, we do have two made from scratch tomato sauces on there that we think you should try. Save the rest for spaghetti!
- Bechamel Sauce – This is a thicker version as it needs to be for this dish. Less pourable, per say. Flour, butter, milk, nutmeg, salt, pepper, minced garlic and Parmesan Reggiano make up this gorgeous beautifully thick sauce.
- Your fillings for Nidi di Rondine include more Parmesan Reggiano, Italian Seasoning, Prosciutto, Basil and/or Spinach leaves, and Fontina or Mozzarella cheese, change that up with any softer cheese you have or prefer.
Bechamel sauce has become one of my favorite sauces. It’s very rich and flavorful. It’s a little intimidating to make at first, but once you get it right, it’s a very useful sauce to have in your recipe book. If you’re like me you’ll also assume that every time you make it, you’re about to mess it up. And then it all comes together.
To make Bechamel, start by making a roux. Let your milk come to room temperature or close to it in a measuring cup for about 20minutes or so beforehand, you can leave your butter out too so it melts faster.
Whisk flour and butter in a pan over moderate high heat, it’ll look like crumbles of pie crust when ready, about 5 minutes. Add your milk in small pours, not all at once to prevent clumping, just a bit at a time while stirring.
Keep stirring until the sauce thickens a bit. This takes a couple minutes maybe another 7-10. We use fat free milk so I assume it takes me longer to thicken my sauce than someone who uses regular milk. It won’t thicken all the way, in my experience, until you add the cheese. Once the sauce has thickened and coats the back of a spoon or silicone whisk, add your remaining seasonings – salt, pepper, nutmeg, and garlic, plus your cheese. Stir until it melts, then remove from heat and set aside, stirring occasionally until ready to use.
If making your own tomato sauce, you can do that ahead of time and set aside about a cup and a half plus some more for a drizzle or for dipping afterwards.
You’ll want to start with boiling the pasta so that it may rest and cool while you make the Bechamel sauce or work on the Bechamel while your noodles boil, but maybe once you’ve done this a couple times. Bechamel needs to be monitored the entire time. I’ve boiled all 12 noodles at once, but you’re best off splitting them in half and doing 6 at a time. Next, you’ll want to lay the noodles out on a towel and flip after a few minutes to dry.
You can see my drying method here to save space using a baking sheet straddling one of my dish towels. I have the room to spread them out but prefer to keep everything close by as I cook.
Nidi Di Rondine Assembly
Once the sauce is made and the pasta has cooled on a towel, it’s time to assemble.
Cover the bottom of a 6×9 (for 12) baking dish with some of your tomato sauce. Adds flavor and keeps the noodles from sticking to the bottom.
Start by spreading the the sauce over the noodles, then follow with the grated cheese and Italian seasoning. You’ll then rip up your prosciutto slices and place over the noodles, unless you have long enough slices then you can lay them right down.
Next, tear up your leafy green be it basil, spinach or both, and spread over the meat. Cover with slices of your cheese to finish your filling.
Finally, roll each noodle carefully, keeping filling in place as you go and place roll on it’s side in your dish very carefully. It will resemble a rose. Keep the rolls close together so they don’t fall apart. If you find your pan is too big and there is space left over, roll a ball of aluminum foil or two and place in the pan as a place holder.
Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until the tops are crisp and golden. The second time I made this I covered the pan with aluminum foil for all but 5 minutes of baking time. It helped a bit with the browning, if you don’t want them to appear burnt.
Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.
Nidi Di Rondine Recipe
Nidi Di Rondine
- 3 tbsp All Purpose Flour
- 2 tbsp Butter
- 1 ½ cups Milk
- ⅛ tsp Grated Nutmeg
- Salt to taste
- ¼ tsp Black Pepper
- 2 tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano grated
- 1 tbsp Garlic minced
- 12 Lasagna Noodles
- 1 ½ cups Marinara/Tomato Sauce jarred or your own
- Italian Seasoning to taste
- ¾ lb Prosciutto sliced thin
- Parmigiano Reggiano grated, to taste
- 12 Fresh Basil Leaves and/or 36 Fresh Spinach Leaves
- 1 ⅓ cup Fontina or Mozzarella Cheese thin slices
- Let your milk come to room temperature or close to it in a measuring cup for about 20 minutes or so before starting, you can leave your butter out too so it melts faster.
- Whisk flour and butter in a pan over moderate high heat, it’ll look like crumbles of pie crust when ready, about 5 minutes.
- Add your milk in small pours, not all at once to prevent clumping, just a bit at a time while stirring. Continue stirring as sauce thickens another 7-10 minutes or so, or more if needed depending on heat, pan, milk used, etc.
- When sauce coats the back of a spoon or a silicone whisk, season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, minced garlic and the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Stir to combine and until cheese melts and sauce thickens more, 2-3 minutes.
- Remove from heat and set aside, move to a measuring cup if you want to keep out of hot pan.
- Cook a few lasagna pieces at a time in salted boiling water. I cook 6 at a time.
- Remove with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen towels.
- Turn them over to dry on both sides after 5 minutes or so.
Assembly and Baking
- Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.
- Coat the bottom of a large baking dish with some of the marinara/tomato sauce. Keep the rest to use as a dip or drizzle when serving.
- Spread a layer of béchamel on the pasta pieces, then sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Italian seasoning.
- Place slices of prosciutto on top, then follow with basil and/or spinach.
- Add slices of cheese on top, rip in half if necessary to spread throughout strips.
- Roll up each in piece into a cylinder and lay in the pan so you can see the swirl. It will resemble a rose.
- Place them close together cut side up in baking dish. Continue the process until the dish is full. If you have space left use crumpled balls of foil to fill in the space and keep the rolls upright.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until the top of the “roses” are crisp and golden.
We served our Nidi Di Rondine with a salad. That first bite was perfection. The Bechamel sauce blended magically with the melted cheese and Prosciutto.
Feeling the urge to try something new? Give this dish a try and let us know below how it went!