Do you like Italian food? You definitely have to try this homemade cannelloni recipe! We found it on Lidia’s Italy and made a few of our own revisions (below in the Chef’s Notes), so make sure you read through to the bottom before getting started!
I wanted to note that nothing here is especially hard to make, it just takes time to cook and reduce the filling, make and wait for the pasta to rest, roll out, cook and cool and then assemble the cannelloni with the two different sauces. Once you try the end result, I’m sure you’ll agree that all of your hard work is worth it!
Also, I’d recommend thinking of this cannelloni recipe as a series of steps or components. You don’t have make everything at once, unless you want to spend more than 4 or 5 hours in your kitchen. You can certainly streamline the recipe by purchasing already prepared lasagna noodles rather than making your own, too. However, if you go that route, you’ll miss the delicate texture of the finished dish as the homemade pasta sheets are so delicate and thin – much thinner than any prepared product I’ve tried.
Original Cannelloni Recipe from Lidia’s Italy
For the pasta:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for working the dough
- 2 large whole eggs
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 Tablespoons water
For the filling:
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1½ pounds ground pork
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 quart hot chicken stock
- 10 ounce bag fresh spinach, roughly chopped
- 8 ounces mortadella, finely chopped
- 2 cups Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
- ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- Zest of 1 lemon
For the besciamella:
- 1 quart low-fat or whole milk
- 2 fresh bay leaves, or 3 dried bay leaves
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- Pinch white pepper
- 3 Tablespoons grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
For the assembly of the cannelloni:
- 1½ cups marinara sauce
- ½ cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
Make the pasta: Put the flour in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to aerate. In a measuring cup, mix together the eggs, oil and 3 tablespoons water in a separate bowl, and pour through the feed tube into the food processor while running. Process until the dough forms a ball and sticks to the blade, about 30 seconds. Add more water or flour as necessary to achieve the right consistency – a smooth, homogenized, compact dough. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead a few times, just to bring it together. Wrap the dough in plastic and let rest for an hour. In the meantime, make the filling and the besciamella sauce.
Make the filling: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Toss in the onion, and cook until it starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the ground pork, and cook, crumbling with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Pour in the white wine, and cook until the wine and meat juices have cooked away and the meat is sizzling, about 10 minutes.
Add the carrots, celery, salt and rosemary. Push the vegetables and meat to the side to clear a “hot spot” in the pan to plop in the tomato paste. Let the tomato paste toast a minute or two, then stir it into the meat and vegetables. Pour in the hot chicken stock, and simmer until thickened and the flavors come together, about 10 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Scrape the filling into a bowl to cool. When cooled, stir in the mortadella, grated cheese, parsley and lemon zest.
Make the sauce: Warm the milk with the bay leaves in a small saucepan. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When melted, stir in the flour to make a smooth paste. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon until roux smells toasty but has not darkened in color, about 4 minutes. Pour in the hot milk, whisking to avoid lumps. Bring to a simmer, whisking until thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with the salt, nutmeg and pepper. Remove from the heat and whisk in the grated cheese.
When an hour has passed, roll out the dough: Cut it into 4 equal pieces. Flatten a piece of dough into a rectangle, 2 by 2 inches, and roll through the widest setting on the pasta machine. Fold this rectangle of dough like a letter, and roll through again. Repeat the rolling and folding a few more times, to knead and smooth the dough. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
Switch to the next-narrowest setting on the machine. Roll a dough strip through, short end first. Repeat with remaining dough strips. Continue this process with narrower settings, now rolling only once through each setting, until you’ve gotten to the next-to-last setting and the dough strips are about as wide as the machine (6 inches).
Cut the dough strips into 4-by-6-inch rectangles. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for pasta. Place a large bowl or pot of ice water next to the boiling pasta water. Boil the dough rectangles, just about a minute, then remove with a spider to the ice bath to cool. Drain and spread out on baking sheets lined with damp kitchen towels
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
To assemble the cannelloni: Spread 1 cup besciamella in the bottom of a 3 quart 9-by-13 Pyrex or ceramic baking dish. Top with ½ cup of the marinara sauce and spread. Fill the dough rectangles with about 1/2 cup of the filling, then roll up the long way like a cigar and fit them snugly together in the baking dish. Spread the remaining bseciamella on top, then drizzle the remaining 1 cup marinara sauce over the besciamella. Sprinkle with the grated cheese. Tent the baking dish with foil, and bake until heated through, about 10 to 15 minutes, then uncover and bake until browned and bubbly, about 10 to 15 minutes more.
Cannelloni Recipe Chef’s Notes
1. The original cannelloni recipe indicated that it serves 8 or more, but when I made it and served two stuffed cannelloni per person, I had enough for a party of 14. If I were having a dinner party with a buffet service or if I was preparing a casual lunch, I would bake the pasta in large rectangle Pyrex dishes and have guests serve themselves. Otherwise, for a special touch, I would bake the stuffed pasta in individual, oval baking dishes like these from Williams-Sonoma.
2. We used our standard pasta recipe and our homemade Marinara, but otherwise followed Lidia’s Italy’s directions.
3. When rolling out the pasta sheets with our Kitchen Aid Pasta attachment, we used setting 7 (for comparison, we use setting 6 for pasta sheets for ravioli). In our version, we also add ½ cup semolina flour and reduce the amount of regular all purpose flour to 1½ cups when making the dough. This gives it a slightly tougher texture.
4. After you cut the dough sheets to the proper size, don’t worry if they look “too small” as they will expand once they cook.
5. To save time, you can purchase already prepared marinara sauce as listed in this recipe. We opted to make our own, but not on the same day we made the pasta sheets or the filling. We tend make large batches of marinara sauce when tomatoes are in season and then freeze most of it in several smaller containers for later use.
Homemade marinara sauce may be one of the easiest sauces you’ll ever make! All you need is a large roasting pan (like the one used for a Thanksgiving turkey), fresh sausages you buy from the butcher, fresh herbs (either from your garden or maybe a Farmer’s market) and whatever tomatoes you like; they don’t even have to be peeled or seeded as long as you use a food mill at the end, once everything has been cooked. You can crumble/dice the cooked sausages and make a meat sauce or save the cooked sausages for another recipe, keeping the roasted tomatoes, garlic and herbs for your sauce to serve over your favorite pasta.
6. If you don’t have a large party in your future, I would consider making ½ of the filling or make the entire recipe and freeze half for a later date. If you’ve ever made a Bolognese sauce, the steps here are similar.
Download and print the recipe here.
Mary Hathaway, Owner of Dinner Diva, has been a personal chef since 2002. She cooks regularly for clients who have special dietary needs, value healthy cooking by using organic products where possible and those who want healthy family meals but have no time to cook. Whether it’s a dinner for 4, a holiday party for 20, or a set of meals for the week, all of the recipes are customized to her client’s needs or lifestyle. Go to: Dinner-Diva.com for more info.