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Cannelloni consists of fresh pasta rolled into sheets and then cut into squares. Those squares are filled with ricotta and spinach and rolled up. Then it’s layered with a white bechamel sauce, tomato sauce and baked with cheese until bubbly and delicious. Serve it with Tiramisu for the ultimate Italian dinner.
What Is The Difference Between Cannelloni And Manicotti
Someone once described it to me as cannelloni being the “old country’s” cousin to its American relative, manicotti. I would say the main difference is that cannelloni is usually made with fresh pasta, while manicotti is made with dried tubes that are stuffed.
What is Cannelloni
The pasta is rolled into sheets and then stuffed with a ricotta and spinach filling, it’s rolled up and layered with bechamel, tomato sauce and cheese. When it’s baked, it comes out of the oven bubbling with the cheese all melty. Add some fresh basil and enjoy.
The fillings are not limited to just ricotta and spinach; some people put minced meat, veal, chicken or beef and other things. I love authentic Italian recipes (see my Pasta al Limone and Pasta alla Nerano for example) and this one fits the bill too!
Ingredients You’ll Need for Cannelloni
- Eggs – This an essential ingredient in our fresh pasta.
- 00 Flour – You can use all-purpose flour but I find that 00 flour is best for homemade pasta.
- Spinach – We need a lot of spinach for this recipe because it always cooks down to nothing.
- Ricotta – We’re using this in the filling. I prefer using full-fat ricotta. We want the good stuff!
- Milk – We’re making a bechamel sauce.
For the rest of the ingredients, please see the recipe card below!
How to Make Cannelloni
- Make the fresh pasta. I like this recipe because it’s simple and easy. If you’ve never made fresh pasta, try it! It’s so fun. You add the 00 zero to a surface, and make a well in the center. Crack in the eggs and whisk away.
- Slowly pull in the flour and mix it all together. Knead it for about 5 minutes, until smooth and cohesive. Let it rest for about 15 minutes on the counter, covered. I like to cover it with a bowl.
- Then roll it out using a machine OR you could use a rolling pin. You’ll want to roll it super thin. You want to be able to see through it.
- Cut it into squares or rectangles that measure about 6x4inches. Mix up the filling which is ricotta, spinach, some salt and Parmesan-Reggiano.
- The bechamel sauce also needs to be made. I like to do a quick bechamel with butter, flour and milk. And then of course, it’s seasoned with a bit of kosher salt and nutmeg.
- Add a few tablespoons of filling to the end of one of the sheets of pasta and roll it up.
- Spoon a few tablespoons of the bechamel sauce into the bottom of two baking dishes. Add the rolled up cannelloni to the baking dish.
- Top with a spoonful of more bechamel and some tomato sauce. Add a few handfuls of the grated Parmesan-Reggiano. Bake for about 20 minutes, until bubbly.
Use jarred sauce. I use jarred cherry tomatoes that are in a sauce. No need to make that fresh.
Frozen spinach. The fresh spinach can be frozen, just let it thaw and drain it first to get rid of all the excess water.
Make the bechamel ahead. You can make the bechamel up to 3 days ahead; just store in the fridge in an airtight container.
Use dried manicotti pasta tubes. Zero shame in this route lol.
Yes, this is a great freezer recipe. Assemble the recipe, place it in a disposable baking dish and top with plastic wrap and a lid. Transfer to the freezer. Thaw in the fridge overnight and bake!
You can top it with your favorite Bolognese Recipe if you like. But I prefer it vegetarian like you see pictured.
Absolutely. You’ll want to boil the manicotti tubes per the package’s directions. And then add the filling to a piping bag or freezer bag. Snip off the end and fill up the tubes with the filling. Proceed with the recipe.
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- 1 rolling pin OR pasta roller
- 275 grams 00 flour
- 3 large eggs
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 4 mint leaves
- Zest from 1 lemon
- 2 cups spinach leaves
- 250 grams ricotta well drained
- 1/2 cup parmesan-reggiano, finely grated (about 1 ounce)
- Kosher salt
- 2 ounces Parmesan-Reggiano, grated
- 5 ounces canned cherry tomatoes, (or use your favorite jarred sauce)
To Make the Homemade Pasta:
- Pour the flour onto your work surface and make a mound. Create a well in the center. Crack in the eggs into the well and whisk them until combined. Slowly incorporated the flour, and keep mixing. When it’s all mixed with the eggs, start kneading the dough until a ball forms. Keep kneading for about 5 to 7 minutes, until it’s a smooth cohesive ball.
- Cover with a bowl or plastic wrap and allow to rest on the counter for 20 minutes. This will relax the gluten. In the meantime, you can move to the other steps if you like.
- When the dough has finished resting, cut it into four equal pieces. Roll the dough through your pasta maker about three to four times, decreasing the setting each time (this will make the pasta thinner each time). You should be able to place a newspaper behind the sheet of pasta and read the newspaper. It should be THAT thin.
- If you don’t own a pasta maker, then you can always roll it with a floured rolling pin. It takes some muscle but it’s absolutely doable.
- Cut the dough into 6×4-inch rectangles that almost look like squares. Repeat this process until you’ve worked through all of the dough. Cover with a damp clean kitchen towel and let them sit until you’re ready to boil them.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, drop in the sheets of pasta and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a bed of clean kitchen towels and work your way through all of the pasta.
To Make the Bechamel Sauce:
- In a small saucepan, set over medium heat, add the butter. When melted, pour in the flour and mix until it forms a cohesive mixture. Cook it for about 1 minute. Pour in the milk and mix until it becomes thick and coats the back of a spoon. Turn off the heat and add in the minced mint, lemon zest and add a few pinches of salt. Give it a taste and adjust the salt to your liking. Set aside.
To Make the Filling;
- Wilt the spinach in a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. When it’s wilted, add it to a bed of paper towels and squeeze out any excess water. Chop it up and add it to a bowl with the ricotta, parmesan and a few pinches of salt. You want it to be well seasoned because the pasta has zero salt.
To Assemble the Cannelloni:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Add a few tablespoons of the bechamel sauce to a baking dish. Any size of baking dish works. This makes a good amount so break out different ones (whatever you have). To a sheet of the pasta, add a few teaspoons of the filling. Roll it up and add it to the baking dish. Repeat until you’ve worked through all of the pasta sheets.
- Spoon a few tablespoons more on top of the pasta. And then add the jarred sauce and/or cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle on the Parmesan-Reggiano. Transfer to the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes, until the pasta is bubbly and delicious looking. Top with some fresh basil and enjoy.
- Cover the baking dish tightly with plastic wrap. And then wrap it in foil (this makes sure any freezer smells don’t get into the pasta itself). Transfer to the freezer and freeze for up to 6 months.
- To bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. And bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
- Use jarred sauce. I use jarred cherry tomatoes that are in a sauce. No need to make that fresh.
- Frozen spinach. The fresh spinach can be frozen, just let it thaw and drain it first to get rid of all the excess water.
- Make the bechamel ahead. You can make the bechamel up to 3 days ahead; just store in the fridge in an airtight container.
- Use dried manicotti pasta tubes. Zero shame in this route lol.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.