This Cheese Cannelloni is an easy vegetarian dinner that takes just 15-minutes to prep! Cannelloni pasta is stuffed with a flavorful ricotta and Parmesan cheese filling, topped with marinara and Mozzarella, and baked until hot and bubbly!
Table of Contents
- What is cannelloni?
- What’s the difference between manicotti and cannelloni?
- Cheese cannelloni ingredients:
- How to make cheese cannelloni
- What is the easiest way to fill cannelloni?
- Variations cheese cannelloni
- Serving suggestions
- Can cheese cannelloni be made ahead of time?
- Can I freeze cannelloni?
- How to store leftovers:
- More baked pasta recipes you’ll love
- Cheese Cannelloni recipe Recipe
There’s never a day I don’t feel like curling up with a plate of Cheese Cannelloni, especially if they’re made with three cheeses!
This cannelloni recipe is the best blend of simple and delicious — we keep it simple with oven-ready noodles but step up the flavor with some incredible cheese, straight from Italy and easily available in Canada.
It’s made with three different kinds of Italian cheese: Ricotta, Parmesan and Mozzarella.
These cheeses are more than their taste (although, they do taste great.) They’re the results of the best ingredients, knowledge, and traditions, often handed down from generation to generation.
Now that is definitely something I can get on board with…especially if it means I get to enjoy a big plate of cheesy pasta! 😉
What is cannelloni?
Cannelloni is a tube-shaped pasta that’s often served stuffed with ricotta cheese filling and topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella!
You can find it in regular and oven-ready varieties. To keep things simple we are using oven-ready cannelloni noodles here. Filling the pasta when it is uncooked is much easier than filling after boiling!
If you can only find the boil-before-baking kind, simply omit the water from the marinara sauce in the recipe and cook the pasta to al dente before cooling and filling.
What’s the difference between manicotti and cannelloni?
Both manicotti and cannelloni are tube-shaped, hollow pasta shapes that tend to be served the same way. However, they are slightly different. Manicotti is larger in size and has ridges on the outside. Cannelloni is slightly smaller and has a smooth exterior!
If for some reason you can’t find cannelloni pasta, manicotti will do!
Cheese cannelloni ingredients:
- Marinara Sauce: I usually stick to jarred sauce to keep this recipe simple but you can definitely use your favorite homemade version if you’d rather.
- Cannelloni Pasta: you’ll need oven-ready cannelloni so all you have to do is stuff and bake. No boiling required!
- Ricotta: use Ricotta straight from Italy — it is unbelievably smooth and creamy!
- Frozen Spinach: make sure you thaw and dry the spinach before adding it so the filling doesn’t end up watery. If all you have is fresh, chop it fine and cook it down before adding to the filling.
- Parmesan: packs a ton of flavor with just a small amount!
- Egg: binds the filling ingredients together.
- Salt, Dried Parsley, Dried Basil, Dried Oregano, and Black Pepper: a sweet, earthy seasoning to add just the right amount of flavor to the filling.
- Water: oven-ready noodles can be a little bit dry so I like to add a splash of water to the sauce to give a little extra moisture.
- Mozzarella: sliced or shredded on top of the pasta bake for that cheesy, gooey finish.
How to make cheese cannelloni
This easy, cheesy, and delicious pasta dinner takes a quick 15 minutes to prep! You can see all of the detailed instructions in the recipe card.
- Prep the pan. Preheat the oven to 350ºF, lightly grease a 9×13″ baking dish, and spread 2 cups of marinara sauce on the bottom.
- Make the filling. In a mixing bowl, stir together Ricotta, spinach, ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese, egg, salt, parsley, basil, oregano, and pepper. Place the mixture in a piping bag or in a large ziplock bag and snip the corner off.
- Stuff the shells. Squeeze the cheese mixture evenly between the shells and place them into the prepared baking dish.
- Top and bake: Top the shells with the remaining marinara combined with water, shredded Mozzarella, and two additional tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. Cover with lightly greased foil and bake for 40 minutes, then uncover and bake for a few additional minutes until the cheese is lightly browned.
What is the easiest way to fill cannelloni?
The best way to fill cannelloni is to use a piping bag. It makes it so much easier to get the filling into the pasta tubes.
If you don’t have a piping bag, you can make your own using a Ziplock bag. Just scoop the filling into a large bag and snip off one of the corners!
Variations cheese cannelloni
- Use oven-ready noodles. Oven-ready noodles keep this recipe super quick and simple. No boiling necessary!
- Use a piping bag. Trust me. You can try to spoon the filling into the pasta, but it is so much more difficult than it needs to be. Instead, put the filling in a piping bag or Ziplock bag with the corner snipped off!
- Add protein. Up the protein by mixing in cooked Italian sausage, ground turkey, ground beef, or shredded chicken. If you’re adding chicken, check out my crockpot shredded chicken or instant pot shredded chicken.
- Add veggies. You can mix in whatever veggies you like to give this pasta dinner a boost of nutrition. Try it with mushrooms, zucchini, onions, carrots, peppers, etc. I recommend pre-cooking the veggies to cook out the moisture.
This cheese cannelloni is delicious next to a simple side salad, a pile of roasted or steamed veggies, or a crusty slice of garlic bread!
Can cheese cannelloni be made ahead of time?
Yes! You can prepare cheese cannelloni up to a day in advance! To do so assemble as directed, then cover and store in the fridge.
When you’re ready to serve, simply bake as directed. You may have to add a little bit more time since the filling will be cold, so make sure it’s heated all the way through before serving!
Can I freeze cannelloni?
Cannelloni can be frozen before or after baking.
If you are making a fresh pan with the intent of putting it in the freezer, I would freeze before baking.
Cooked pasta that is frozen and thawed is still delicious, but it is much softer than fresh and the texture may not be as appealing.
To warm frozen pasta, thaw in the fridge overnight if possible or at room temperature for several hours, then cover and heat at 350 degrees F until heated through.
If you have to bake from frozen, put them pan in the oven and then turn on the oven to heat. This way, the pan will warm up slowly. Keep in mind in can take up to 2 hours to heat a frozen pasta dish.
How to store leftovers:
Baked cheese cannelloni will last in an airtight container in the fridge for 5 days or in the freezer for 3 months.
To reheat, thaw in the fridge if frozen, then bake or microwave until heated all the way through.
More baked pasta recipes you’ll love
- Rigatoni Pasta Bake
- Baked Ziti with Italian Turkey Sausage
- Healthier Creamy Chicken Spaghetti Bake
- White Chicken Lasagna with Ham and Spinach
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Cheese Cannelloni recipe
- 3½ cups marinara sauce (divided)
- ⅓ cup water
- 125 grams oven ready cannelloni pasta (12 noodles)
- 475 grams Ricotta (about 2 cups)
- 225 grams frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (about ½ cup)
- ⅓ cup + 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese (divided)
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon dried parsley
- ¼ teaspoon dried basil
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 cups shredded Mozzarella (about 210 grams)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 9×13" baking dish. Combine marinara sauce with water and spread 2 cups marinara sauce in the bottom of the pan.
- Stir together the Ricotta, spinach, ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese, egg, salt, parsley, basil, oregano and pepper. Place in a piping bag or large ziploc bag and snip the end off.
- Squeeze the Ricotta mixture evenly into cannelloni shells and place in prepared pan, leaving a space in between each one as they will expand.
- Pour remaining sauce over cannelloni shells in pan and top with shredded Mozzarella, and 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Cover with lightly greased foil (this helps to keep the cheese from sticking) and bake for 30-40 minutes or until pasta is tender (don't overbake!) and cheese is melted.
- Uncover and continue baking until cheese is lightly browned. Serve.
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