Fresh egg pasta sheets filled with creamy ricotta and spinach, in a delicious tomato sauce, topped with oozy mozzarella! These spinach and ricotta cannelloni are full of flavour! And the leftovers are amazing too! This is a classic veggie baked pasta dish that never fails to satisfy.
This vegetarian cannelloni is made with fresh egg pasta sheets, so there’s no messing about stuffing pasta rolls! I don’t know about you but I definitely don’t have the time for that!
I’ve been making this dish for ages, even before we went veggie, it’s a firm family favourite. It’s easy to make but does take a little more time. The leftovers are great and it’s great for freezing making it a great family meal.
Ingredients and Substitutions
There are two parts to this recipe, the sauce and the filling.
~ For the sauce
~ For the filling
- Tomatoes – canned whole plum tomatoes will give you the best flavour for your sauce. You can also use chopped/diced tomatoes or tomato passata.
- Spinach – fresh is best for this recipe but you can use frozen if you want. I use baby spinach, I find that kids prefer the milder taste from the younger spinach but if you can get mature spinach then that works really well too.
- Cheese – you’ll need ricotta, mozzarella and pecorino for this recipe. I use full fat for all of them. I don’t recommend using low-fat ricotta for this recipe but you can substitute it for low-fat if you want.
- Herbs – I use dried oregano and dried bay leaves in the sauce and fresh basil in the filling. You can play around with these if you want. Fresh basil is great in the sauce as is fresh oregano.
Step By Step Instructions
This is just a quick visual guide, please see the full ingredient list and detailed instructions in the recipe card below.
Step 1: Make the sauce – cook the onion, celery and carrots until soft. Add the dried oregano and garlic, cook for a minute then add two cans of plum tomatoes. Add two dried bay leaves and one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Leave to simmer until thickened. Remove the bay leaves before using the sauce.
Step 2: Make the filling – wilt the spinach in a frying pan, leave to cook slightly then squeeze out as much water as you can. Roughly chop the spinach then add it to a bowl with the ricotta, grated pecorino, chopped basil, garlic and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper and stir well.
Step 3: Assemble the cannelloni – lay a sheet of pasta on a clean board. Add two tablespoons of the filling to one end of the pasta sheet. Roll the pasta to make a tube. Repeat until you’ve used up all the filling.
Step 4: Bake the cannelloni – add half the sauce to a casserole dish, spread it out with a spoon to cover the base. Place the filled cannelloni on top of the sauce. Cover the cannelloni with the remaining sauce then scatter some torn mozzarella over the sauce. Bake, uncovered in the oven for about 20 -30 minutes. Leave to cool slightly before serving.
- Pasta – I find using fresh pasta sheets the easiest and fastest way to make cannelloni. The other thing about using fresh lasagna sheets is that you get the best, crispiest edges. I think they taste better than the dried cannelloni rolls, but that’s a taste preference. You can use the dried pasta tubes if you want, the best way the fill those is to use a piping bag.
- Pro-Tip – always have a couple of extra sheets of lasagna, sometimes sheets crack or break, it can happen. If you have leftover lasagna sheets they will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. You could always use up any leftovers in a lasagne.
- Sauce – When the sauce is cooked I blend it with a handheld blender, this will make the sauce nice and smooth. You can skip this if you want. I find that the smoother the sauce the less chance of the kids finding out that there are carrots in there!
- Try a spinach and ricotta pasta bake. Don’t feel like filling those tubes? Make a pasta bake instead! You’ll get all the same great flavour just in a pasta bake!
- Make stuffed shells instead, another family favourite and a very popular recipe on the blog. This is a little bit less work but still tastes great.
Can I make this ahead – The best way to make this ahead of time is to make the whole dish and freeze it before you cook it. You should take it out of the freezer to thaw 24 hours before you want to cook it. Cook it in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes. until it is piping hot. You can also make the sauce a day or two ahead if you want. It will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. Or you can freeze it. You can also make the filling a day ahead, you can freeze that too.
What about the leftovers, can I freeze them? Any leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days. They can be reheated in the oven for best results or in the microwave. You can also freeze any leftovers once cooled.
Do I have to cook the pasta before I fill the cannelloni? No, if you are using fresh egg pasta lasagna sheets then you don’t need to cook them first. The same goes for using the dried tubes. If you use dried lasagna sheets then I would cook those first.
Try These Pasta Bakes Next
- Broccoli Pasta Bake – Creamy, cheesy and really tasty this is great for an easy weeknight dinner.
- Pesto Pasta Bake – a very tasty vegetarian pasta bake packed with hidden veggies! Great for getting the kids to eat more greens.
- Creamy Mushroom Pasta Bake – Pasta, mushrooms and kale in a creamy cheesy sauce baked with a crispy topping. This is perfect comfort food and a great weeknight dinner.
Have you made this recipe? Please let me know how it went in the comments, it’s nice to get your feedback.
Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni
for the sauce
- 1 medium brown onion finely chopped
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium carrot peeled and finely chopped
- 1 stalk of celery finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic put through a garlic press or finely chopped
- 1 level tsp dried oregano
- 2 x 400g (2 x 14oz ) cans of whole plum tomatoes
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 dried bay leaves
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
for the cannelloni
- 7 sheets of fresh egg lasagna sheets + a couple more in case any break
- 250 g (approx 8 cups) of young spinach
- 250 g ( 1 cup ) ricotta
- 45 g (½ a cup ) pecorino cheese finely grated + more for serving
- 2 cloves of garlic
- small bunch of basil roughly shredded
- ⅛ tsp grated nutmeg
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 125 g x ball ( 1 x 8 oz ball US) of fresh mozzarella
Make the sauce
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large sautè pan.Add the chopped onion and cook for about 10 minutes. Then add the chopped celery and chopped carrot. Cook for another 10 minutes or until they are softened.Add the garlic and 1 teaspoon of dried oregano and cook for a minute until the garlic releases its aroma.
- Now add two cans of whole plum tomatoes, break them down with a wooden spoon and stir well. I always add a little water to the cans to catch any remaining tomato juice. Stir in 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, season with salt and pepper then and 2 dried bay leaves.Leave the sauce to simmer until it is nice and thick then using a handheld blender blend the sauce until it is smooth.Remove the bay leaves.
Make the filling
- Heat the oven to 180°C (355° F) fan oven / 200°C (390°F) conventional oven.Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large frying pan.Add half the spinach and cook until it is wilted. Remove the wilted spinach from the pan.Repeat with the remaining spinach.Leave to cool slightly then place the spinach in a clean t-towel and squeeze the spinach to remove some of the liquid.Roughly chop the spinach and place in a large bowl
- Add the ricotta and grated pecorino to the spinach along with the chopped basil, nutmeg and garlic.Season with salt and pepper then stir well.
Assemble the cannelloni
- Lay a sheet of pasta on a clean wooden board.Add two tablespoons of the filling along one side. Roll the sheet so you now have a tube.Repeat until you have used up all the filling.Add half the sauce to a casserole dish, spread it out evenly.Place the filled cannelloni on the sauce then pour the remaining sauce over the cannelloni.Tear up the mozzarella then scatter it on top of the sauce.Bake uncovered in the oven for 30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted and golden.Leave to cool slightly before serving.
- Pasta - I use fresh pasta sheets to make this cannelloni, I have found it to be the easiest and fastest way to make cannelloni. The other thing about using fresh lasagna sheets is that you get the best, crispiest edges. I think they taste better than the dried cannelloni rolls, but that's a taste preference. You can use the dried pasta tubes if you want, the best way the fill those is to use a piping bag.
- Pro-Tip - always have a couple of extra sheets of lasagna, sometimes sheets crack or break, it can happen.
- Sauce - When the sauce is cooked I blend it with a handheld blender, this will make the sauce nice and smooth. You can skip this if you want. I find that the smoother the sauce the less chance of the kids finding out that there are carrots in there!
- Freezing/leftovers/making ahead -The best way to make this ahead of time is to make the whole dish and freeze it before you cook it. You should take it out of the freezer to thaw 24 hours before you want to cook it. Cook it in the oven for 30 minutes. You can also make the sauce a day or two ahead if you want. It will keep in the fridge. Or you can freeze it. You can also make the filling a day ahead, you can freeze that too. Any leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days. They can be reheated in the oven for best results or in the microwave. You can also freeze any leftovers once colled.
- Nutritional Information - is calculated using an online nutrition tool is approximate and based on one serving of four.
- Weights and measurements - For US readers, I use Cuisipro measuring cups and spoons, and a Pyrex measuring jug for liquids. These are the industry standard. Cup/spoon volumes can differ from brand to brand, for accuracy, I recommend weighing all ingredients if possible for best results.