When it comes to delicious Italian meals, baked cannelloni can’t be beat. There are as many recipes for this dish as there are Italian nonnas. This cannelloni recipe features pasta stuffed with a ricotta filling that’s cheesy and delicious.
Cannelloni, much like lasagna, is a meal that takes a bit of preparation. But that preparation will net a delicious home cooked meal full of Italian flavor.
First, though, what IS cannelloni?
Cannelloni vs Manicotti
Cannelloni is a tube-shaped pasta that can be stuffed with a variety of fillings. Manicotti? Also a tube-shaped pasta. The difference is that cannelloni pasta is generally smooth and thin walled, while manicotti is slightly thicker and ribbed.
Ingredients for baked cannelloni
Cannelloni — Look for these in the pasta aisle of the grocery store. If you can’t find cannelloni, manicotti is a fine substitution. You could also substitute large pasta shells for this recipe.
Pork sausage — You can use a mild or spicy Italian sausage for this, as you like. If you start with links, you’ll need to remove the ground meat from the casings. If you have access to Italian sausage in bulk (or make your own, like this), you can skip this step.
Cheeses — Ricotta cheese is available in the dairy department, and gives this baked cannelloni it’s creaminess, as part of the stuffing. Top the cannelloni with mozzarella cheese before baking, and serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan. It’s a trifecta of cheesy goodness!
Tomatoes — The recipe calls for whole canned tomatoes (look for San Marzano tomatoes for a true Italian flavor), but if stewed tomatoes are all that’s available, that’s fine. Drain the tomatoes before adding them to the filling.
Spinach — Use fresh spinach leaves if you can. Frozen spinach works, but be sure to drain it and squeeze it dry
Seasonings — The seasoning for this dish is simple, since the Italian sausage has such flavor. Add salt and pepper to taste, garlic in the filling, and thyme as a garnish.
Making this baked cannelloni
Don’t let the fact that there are several stages to making this recipe turn you away. The steps are easy!
Cooking the cannelloni shells
Drop the cannelloni into boiling water. Be sure to stir them around to prevent sticking. Cook them only until they reach al dente stage. They’ll be difficult to fill otherwise.
Making the cannelloni filling
For the filling, cook and crumble the sausage in a frying pan, then combine with the ricotta cheese, tomatoes, and spinach.
Filling the pasta
If you have one, a piping bag is an easy way to fill the cannelloni. If not, use a small spoon to push the sausage mixture into each cannelloni shell, then place filled pasta into a baking dish that is liberally greased with butter or olive oil.
Sprinkle shredded cheese over the top of the cannelloni and bake. Serve with Parmesan cheese.
How to serve
Dish this delicious baked cannelloni onto plates and serve with a green salad for a complete meal. Glass of red wine optional.
- 8-10 cannelloni pasta
- 1 pound Italian pork sausage
- 3 ounces ricotta cheese
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 14-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
- 2 ounces fresh spinach leaves
- 4 ounces mozzarella cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Thyme optional for decoration
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving (optional)
- Boil cannelloni according to package directions. Rinse in cool water.
- Remove casings from sausage and cook in a large skillet for 7-10 minutes over medium heat until browned, breaking up into small pieces with a wooden spoon as you cook.
- Add garlic, tomatoes, and spinach, and cook for 10 minutes more. Remove from
heat and drain.
- Transfer meat to large bowl along with ricotta cheese and seasoning. Stir to combine.
- Stuff cannelloni tubes with filling, placing filled cannelloni into a greased baking dish.
- Top with shredded cheese.
- Bake at 375F in the oven for 25 minutes
- Garnish with thyme and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired.
If you have one, a piping bag is an easy way to fill the cannelloni.