Recipe: Swallow’s Nests | Nidi di Rondine

What being a grown up has taught me:

  • There’s no way to turn couch surfing into exercise.
  • I cannot be a mermaid for a day, no matter how hard I will myself to grow a tail.
  • Superman isn’t going to swoop down out of the sky and carry me away with him. Heck, he can’t even find a phone booth these days.
That being said, there are lots of good things I’ve learned as a grownup.
  • Making my daughter guffaw makes my heart happy
  • Eating around the table with loved ones is worth a pile of dirty dishes.
  • There are superheroes in every day life, like my husband who quietly shovels our neighbor’s drive when he thinks no one is looking.
And now… thanks to the tiny country called San Marino… I’ve finally learned that I can have the best of two worlds: lasagna and cinnamon rolls.  The dish is called Nidi di Rondine, or Swallow’s Nests. Think fresh sheets of pasta spiraled like a cinnamon bun, but layered with bechamel sauce, cheese, and ham (and a pinch of nutmeg). Then the whole shebang is baked on a bed of more bechamel sauce, under a sprinkling of Parmesan, for an ultra creamy casserole.

The beauty of Nidi di Rondine is how each portion spirals in on itself like a rose or bird’s nest or… or… a giant food hug. The casserole makes a particularly stunning contribution to a dinner party potluck and is a great conversation starter.

Vegetarian? leave out the ham and include just about any vegetable you can think of, like spinach or mushrooms.

In a hurry? Try using ricotta instead of bechamel and fresh lasagna sheets from your grocer’s refrigerator section.

Even more in a hurry? Our neighbors made a version with puff pastry instead of pasta and cooked the casserole at 400F for 20 minutes. They even topped it with a little tomato sauce.

Bottom line? No matter how you roll it, Nidi Di Rondine wants to be a part of your life.

Makes 15-18 nests.


1/2 batch Homemade pasta dough, or store-bought sheets of fresh lasagna

Bechamel sauce:

2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/8 tsp nutmeg


8-10 oz thin Ham slices
8-10 oz very thin cheese slices (like emmentalier or mozarella)

1/2 cup parmesan to spoon on top of each nest
2-3 Tbsp olive oil


Let’s go to a special castle in San Marino, where the swallows swoop and gentle breezes tuft along the mountainside. This is the perfect place for a daydream. A perfect place to make Nidi di Rondine, or Swallow’s Nests.

Can you see me waving from the window?

Guaita fortress and part of the city (view from above Monte Titano). Photo by Ricardo André Frantz.

Start by making the homemade pasta. Set it aside to rest for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the bechamel: melt the butter in a pot. Whisk in the flour and nutmeg until completely combined, then whisk together with a little milk. Keep adding milk a little at a time until a smooth, thick sauce forms. Set aside.

Next, roll out the pasta dough into a large rectangle (remember we’re just using half a batch)…

My rectangle was about 14″x21″ or so (bigger is fine)

Top with half the bechamel sauce… then ham, then cheese.

Tip – use really thin slices of cheese…have the deli counter slice it for you.

P.S. This is what you do if you realize you don’t have enough ham and cheese slices… checkerboard it up!

But ideally, yours would be covered all over with cheese. Shredded cheese works, too.

Then roll up into a long tube. Freeze for about 30 minutes (this will make it so easy to slice). If you need to slice it in half to fit in your freezer, go for it.

Now we’re ready for the fun part.

Preheat the oven to 325F and oil a casserole liberally. Spoon in the remaining half of the bechamel sauce.

Remove the pasta roll from the freezer and slice to make individual nests. The best way to make them equal sized is to slice the roll in half, then half again, and so on.  (mine ended up being about 1 1/2 inches high).

Brush the sides with olive oil so they don’t stick to each other and then place, cut side up in the casserole. Top with 1/2-1 tsp grated Parmesan per spiral and bake at 325F for 45-50 min…

TIP: The less Parmesan you add to the spirals, the easier it will be to see their lovely design.


… and just like that, San Marino has my heart.

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  1. These look great! I hate to think what the fat and calorie count is though! If we finally get some snow around here i won’t care so much because I will X-country ski it off!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      It’s really not too bad! Bechamel is mostly milk… and the cheese is sliced thin… and that’s the story I’m sticking to haha

  2. Let me say this. I want to eat this so badly that it is hurting me. I am actually salivating – literally – all over the keyboard, and that is not a very lady-like thing to do.

    gosh, I love EVERYTHING about this recipe…. now I wonder if I could pull this for our Dec 24th dinner…. it could be hard, but wow, I really really REALLY want to have it

    awesome recipe, this one goes to my Pinterest right away!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      You can do it… and one thing I did was assemble the casserole and refrigerate it until needed. So you can make it in the am and bake it for dinner. That’ll take some pressure off you… and thanks for pinning!

  3. Yay!!! You saved me from another agonizing night of “what to cook tomorrow”… this looks sooo great that I’ll have to make it tonight :) THANK YOU!!!

  4. The idea Sally had is genius. It’s such a special dish, and would be perfect for a Christmas Eve dinner. Hmmm. I wonder if I can pull it off.

  5. I wonder if you can use a gnocchi dough for this?

    • Sasha Martin says:

      My experience is that doesn’t roll as well, so you’d have to adapt the technique to make it work. Interesting idea, though.

  6. I love the way this looks and I’m sure it tastes fantastic. There’s nothing better than a dish full of bubbly cheese on a cold winter’s day. Yum!

  7. Judi Suttles says:

    Hi Sasha,
    I made theese for tonight. Do you cover with foil for baking?

  8. Judi Suttles says:

    This is a great recipe. Hubby loved it!

  9. Judi Suttles says:

    Made these and they were great. Hubby loved it!

  10. Joanne T Ferguson says:

    G’day! I was glad when I stumbled onto your wonderful site via Google! IS 41 C at the moment here, but have this “on my list to do!” Looks sooooooooooooo comforting, and can tell it will already be FANTASTIC too!

  11. Emily Paul says:

    I saw this on pinterest and immediately pinned because of a connection I have to someone who grew up in San Marino…..I have made it a few times and it will definitely be in our regular dinner rotation!!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Awesome, Emily… so glad! I would love to be in San Marino.

    • People puts stuff on Pinterest just because of what it looks like??? If you made it several times I am sure it wasn’t from this web site. The pictures are beautiful and the dialog is interesting. But I for one will not go to the trouble necessary to find an easy printable copy of this. If you look at all the comments most of them say it looks good but nobody has actually made it from this web page.

  12. I’m dying to make this but have no idea where I’d go to get the already made lasagne sheets. Any ideas? I live in Houston so I’m sure its availalbe…just don’t know where to start looking.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      I’d try Whole Foods (the fresh pasta refrigerator).. or rolling out your own isn’t so bad, really! Just give it 30 second rests between rolls, when it starts to spring back on you. Good luck!

  13. G’day! As a friendly follow up, I have now made your WONDERFUL recipe! Thank you for inspiring me to do!
    I LOVE fresh pasta and I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND people make this! LOVE the results too! Thank you!

    Here’s a photo and what I wrote about them too! Hope you enjoy!

  14. This is similar to a Marcell Hazan recipe called Pasta Roses. It is the bomb, you should check it out! I will definitely be trying this recipe…

  15. Hello there, just became alert to your blog through Google,
    and found that it’s truly informative. I am gonna watch out for brussels. I’ll be grateful if you continue
    this in future. A lot of people will be benefited from your writing.

  16. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about software pyramide pc.

  17. Hello there! Would you mind if I share your blog with
    my facebook group? There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Cheers

  18. Whoa! Very cool recipe, I’ll be making this soon. Thanks Sasha for the great recipes. :)

  19. Would you be able to put the recipe with ingredients and instructions on one page?

    • Sasha Martin says:

      There’s a print friendly button under the “share the love” bar – from there you can delete paragraphs and photos you don’t want – and make it as long or as short as you’d like. It’s just a simple click on any item you don’t want and it disappears. Hope that helps, Maxine!

  20. I am new at cooking but I think this recipe looks good. However, I find it hard to follow and I have a lot of questions. One is what is a brand name of the lasagna sheets. My grocer has never heard of them and neither have I. Why is it so hard to print a recipe? I am not real good on the computer and my mind is blown on how to print this one. One commenter said this was not a recipe web site so maybe I should not even be asking these questions. Does anyone know another place you can go and get this recipe?

  21. Well, because this looked so good I tried it. These are the problems I had. I made the pasta dough because I could not find lasagna sheets. It stuck to the board and when I tried to roll it out it tore. The Béchamel sauce got a scheme on it before I was ready to use. So next time I will make it when I am ready to use it. Although it wasn’t really noticeable when the recipe was done. When it finished baking the pasta was a bit doughy. Maybe the dough was not rolled out thin enough. All in all it was very good. I will try making it again and improve on it. If I still can’t find the lasagna sheets I think I will try pizza dough.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Thanks so much for the feedback, Red! Likely the pasta did need to be rolled thinner – you could do 1-2 mm, ideally. If it ever sticks again (see if it sticks to your hand as a test), just dust the work surface with some flour and it should be smooth sailing from there. Enjoy!


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