Stuffed with classic bolognese and topped with creamy homemade béchamel sauce, this is the best cannelloni bolognese recipe - a huge family favourite!
Good comfort food is one of life's simple pleasures. These Cannelloni Bolognese make it to the top of my favourite comfort foods.
Perfect for a Sunday or holiday lunch, these pasta tubes stuffed with classic bolognese sauce and topped with homemade béchamel will feed a crowd!
This beef cannelloni recipe has been a family classic in our household for some time now and it's one of those comforting recipes I will always keep going back to. It combines those elements we all love in a perfectly baked pasta dish; good pasta, delicious meat sauce, topped up with béchamel sauce, cheese, and fresh parsley.
What is Cannelloni?
Cannelloni are cylindrical pasta tubes that are typically filled, covered with sauce (such as béchamel with cheese), and baked. Popular stuffings include bolognese (meat sauce) or ricotta and spinach. Cannelloni are then baked until cheese is bubbling and golden brown.
Manicotti are similar to cannelloni, but these tend to be slightly larger and ridged.
Ingredients and Variations
Cannelloni - For this recipe, I used dry cannelloni tubes. You don't need to pre-cook these beforehand. You can also use manicotti if cannelloni are not available.
Onions, Carrots, Celery - These will be used to make the sofritto by sauteeing finely diced vegetables in olive oil. Use white or yellow onions.
Ground Beef - Use good quality ground beef. You can also use ground veal, ground pork, or a mixture of pork and beef.
Olive Oil - For sauteeing the vegetables. Use good quality olive oil.
Tomato Puree - Together with ground beef, this makes the base of the sauce. Use smooth tomato puree (or passata).
Vegetable Stock - You will need half a cup of vegetable stock for the liquid part of the sauce.
White Wine - Wine adds a rich taste to the sauce while enhancing other flavours. You can either go for red or white wine, whichever you prefer.
Italian Seasoning, Oregano, Chilli Flakes - Dried spices for added flavour. Chilli flakes are optional.
Milk or Cream - A dash of milk or fresh cream for added depth and richness in bolognese sauce.
For the béchamel sauce, you will need:
Butter - Unsalted butter for the base of the sauce.
Flour - Two tablespoons of AP flour for thickening the sauce.
Nutmeg - A pinch of ground nutmeg.
Milk - Semi-skimmed or whole dairy milk.
Shredded Cheese - Use freshly grated Parmesan, Pecorino, or Cheddar cheese or a mixture of cheeses!
For the topping, you will need:
Mozzarella - Use thinly sliced mozzarella for topping the cannelloni before baking.
Fresh Parsley - Chopped fresh parsley for serving.
How to Make Cannelloni Bolognese
Make the Soffritto
Start by finely dicing the onions, carrot, and celery.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat and add your vegetables. Saute, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
The vegetables will release their moisture and shrink.
Cook the Meat
Whilst the sofritto is in progress, brown the ground meat in a separate skillet and set aside.
Make the Ragu
Add white wine to the soffrit and scrape the skillet (high heat). Add your dried herbs, cooked meat, tomato puree, and vegetable stock and bring to a simmer.
Simmer for 10 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the béchamel sauce.
Make the Béchamel Sauce
Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan on medium heat. Add flour and nutmeg and whisk until smooth.
Add milk and bring to a simmer. The mixture will thicken as it simmers. If the mixture is too thick, add more milk.
Stir in grated cheese and remove from heat.
Preheat the oven to 190°C (375 F). Prepare a large baking pan or ovenproof dish (place empty dry cannelloni to ensure correct size of pan/dish).
Spread 2-3 ladelfuls of bolognese sauce at the bottom of the pan.
Spoon bolognese mixture into a piping bag. Snip off the tip or add a large round frosting tip (it should be large enough for bolognese sauce to pass through).
Pipe the bolognese mixture into each of the dry cannelloni tubes. Place one end at of each tube flat on a plate/baking dish so that mixture doesn't come out.
Note: If you don't have a piping bag, fill cannelloni by placing 4-5 teaspoonfuls of sauce into each tube.
Lay each cannelloni tube into baking dish, placing the cannelloni as close as possible next to each other.
Pour ½ a cup of water in baking dish around cannelloni so that they are at least half-way surrounded by water.
Spread béchamel sauce over cannelloni, covering well. Top with sliced mozzarella cheese and bake for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and golden brown.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes, sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley, and serve.
How to Serve Cannelloni Bolognese
In winter, serve with soup such as this Pumpkin Carrot Soup.
Store leftover cannelloni in a refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in a microwave before serving.
Yes, you can freeze uncooked stuffed cannelloni in a freezer-safe bag or container for up to 2 months. Cover with bechamel sauce and bake from frozen in a preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until cooked through.
No. Dried cannelloni tubes are oven-ready and do not need to be precooked or boiled. Make sure you add enough water to your baking pan so that they do not dry out while baking.
The quickest way to stuff cannelloni tubes is by using a a piping bag (or frosting bag) with its tip snipped off.
Alternatively, you can stuff cannelloni using a teaspoon, but this is more time-consuming.
The Best Cannelloni Bolognese
- 250 g cannelloni tubes (dry) or manicotti
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large onion finely diced
- 1 medium-sized carrot finely diced
- 1-2 celery sticks finely diced
- 500 g lean ground beef or any ground meat/mixture of choice
- 60 mL white wine (optional) (¼ cup)
- 1½ tsp. Italian seasoning
- ¼ tsp. dried oregano
- ¼ tsp. dried chilli flakes (optional)
- 680 mL tomato puree (tomato passata)
- 125 mL vegetable stock (½ cup)
- 2-4 tbsp. milk or heavy cream
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp. all purpose flour
- ¼ tsp. nutmeg
- 375 mL milk semi skimmed or whole (1½ cup)
- 60-80 g freshly grated Parmesan (or Pecorino, Grana Padano, Cheddar, or Emmental) (½ to ¾ cup)
- 125 mL water
- 80-100 g mozzarella cheese thinly sliced
- fresh parsley chopped
- Preheat the oven to 190°C (375 F). Prepare a large baking pan or ovenproof dish (place empty dry cannelloni to ensure correct size of pan/dish).
- In a large non-stick skillet, heat olive oil and add onions, carrot, and celery. Saute for 18-20 minutes. Add garlic and dried herbs (Italian seasoning, chilli, oregano) and saute for another minute, stirring constantly.
- In the meantime, in a separate skillet, brown ground meat and set aside.
- Add white wine to the soffrit and scrape the skillet (high heat). Add your dried herbs, cooked meat, tomato puree, and vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes and remove from heat.
- In the meantime, prepare the béchamel sauce. In a small saucepan on medium-high heat, melt the butter and slowly add flour and nutmeg, whisking thoroughly to avoid clumping.
- Stir in milk and bring to a simmer (medium heat). The sauce will thicken up. If the sauce is too thick, add more milk. Stir in shredded cheese and remove from heat.
- Pour 2 ladefuls of bolognese sauce on bottom of baking pan (enough to cover bottom).
- Transfer meat ragu into piping bag. Snip off tip or add a large round frosting tip (it should be large enough for bolognese sauce to pass through). Pipe bolognese mixture into each of the dry cannelloni tubes. Place one end at of each tube flat on a plate/baking dish so that mixture doesn't come out. If you don't have a piping bag, fill cannelloni by placing 4-5 teaspoonfuls of sauce into each tube of pasta.
- Lay each cannelloni tube into baking dish, placing cannelloni as close as possible next to each other. Spread any remaining meat sauce over the cannelloni.
- Pour ½ cup of water in baking dish around cannelloni so that they are at least half-way surrounded by water.
- Spread béchamel sauce over cannelloni. Add sliced mozzarella cheese on top and bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until the pasta is tender, the cheese is bubbly and the surface is golden-brown.Check the pasta half-way through baking. Add some water if it starts to dry out.
- Allow to cool, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.