If you're a fan of Italian cuisine, then you're in for a treat with this recipe for Easy & Delicious Baked Beef Cannelloni with Spinach! The combination of ground beef, onions, peppers, and mushrooms creates a savory filling that's stuffed into cannelloni shells, then smothered with marinara sauce and gooey mozzarella cheese. This easy oven-baked pasta dish is the ultimate Italian comfort food!
- Why you'll love this recipe
- Can you make cannelloni ahead of time?
- Try these delicious pasta dishes next!
- Ingredients & Substitutions
- What is cannelloni?
- What's the difference between cannelloni and manicotti?
- Step by Step Instructions - How to make cannelloni
- Variations for the best cannelloni recipe
- What to eat with beef cannelloni
- Storage, Freezing & Reheating Instructions for Cannelloni
- Can I freeze leftover cannelloni?
- Can I freeze uncooked beef canneloni?
- How do you cook frozen cannelloni?
- Can I cook cannelloni from frozen without thawing?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Try these pasta recipes next!
- Easy Beef Cannelloni with Spinach
My husband fondly remembers Mrs. Tweezy's authentic Italian cannelloni recipe when she lived down the street from him growing up.
I made this for dinner one night last week and the whole family loved it - even our fussy eater! Cannelloni is one of our favorite types of stuffed pasta.
I love having a tray of cannelloni in the freezer ready to pop into the oven on busy weeknights. This easy pasta dish freezes well and leftovers are always welcome. We think it's the best beef cannelloni recipe ever!
Why you'll love this recipe
- simple ingredients and no fancy equipment is needed to make this delicious beef cannelloni recipe.
- it's easy! Although it does take a little extra time to prepare this pasta dinner, it is SO WORTH IT! The juicy beef filling is out of this world and trust me, you will be so happy you made it!
- this beef cannelloni with mozarella is perfect for making ahead and reheating the next day. Imagine walking in the door and simply popping this into the oven to reheat!
- everyone will love this Italian comfort food and the best way to enjoy this pasta dish is with my cheesy garlic bread and a side caesar salad. Glass of red wine or white wine optional of course!
Can you make cannelloni ahead of time?
Yes. You can make cannelloni ahead of time. There are two options. Cook and store in refrigerator to reheat later, or assemble and refrigerate without cooking. Follow cooking directions on the recipe card at the bottom of this page. You can also assemble the cannelloni ahead of time and freeze it to cook when you need it.
Try these delicious pasta dishes next!
Ingredients & Substitutions
This beef cannelloni with spinach uses simple ingredients that you should be able to readily find in your local grocery store.
- Cannelonni pasta tubes - we used oven ready cannelloni which does not need to be precooked. You could also substitute manicotti shells, but you will have less pieces because they are larger.
When I use manicotti, I always buy the ones that must be cooked in advance and cook until al dente. You can also use lasagna sheets and use the cut-and-roll method.
- Ground beef - I like to use extra-lean ground beef, but you can use whatever you pick up at the store. Just be sure to drain off the excess fat.
- Olive oil - good quality extra-virgin olive oil is always best for flavor!
- Onions - cooking onions or sweet vidalia onions add delicious flavor to this dish.
- Garlic cloves - fresh garlic is best in this recipe and substituting with garlic powder simply won't do the recipe justice in this case.
- Green Pepper - you can easily substitute any bell pepper in this recipe, Red, yellow green and orange bell peppers will work perfectly.
- Mushrooms - for this recipe, I like to use white button mushrooms or cremini mushrooms.
- Spinach - we used fresh spinach but you could also use frozen spinach.
- Worcestershire sauce - gives delicious flavor to the meat mixture. If you're out and don't have any on hand, you could also subsitute beef broth.
- Italian seasoning
- Marinara sauce - use good quality store-bought sauce for this recipe. If you're feeling ambitioius and want to make it from scratch, homemade marinara sauce recipe is always delicious! In a pinch, you could substitute tomato sauce.
- Mozzarella cheese - fresh italian mozzarella cheese. Avoid buying the pre-shredded cheese. It does not melt as well as the fresh mozzarella. Beef cannelloni with mozzarella is the best!
- Parmesan cheese - freshly grated Parmesan cheese is best vs. the store-bought cheese in the shaker.
- Salt & Black Pepper - taste the meat mixture and salt and pepper to taste.
- Fresh basil (optional for garnish)
What is cannelloni?
Cannelloni pasta is a type of cylindrical-shaped pasta that is often stuffed with a filling, such as cheese, meat, or vegetables. The pasta tubes are sometimes boiled before being filled, and then baked in the oven with a sauce and cheese on top.
There are several types of cannelloni fillings from beef cannelloni, chicken cannelloni, seafood cannelloni and a simple ricotta and spinach stuffed cannelloni filling.
Cannelloni is often made by cutting fresh lasagna sheets and rolling up the filling in the square and placing seam-side-down in a baking dish.
What's the difference between cannelloni and manicotti?
If you're standing in the grocery store and wondering cannelloni vs. manicotti what's the difference? I've got you covered!
Manicotti and Cannelloni are types of pasta tubes. Manicotti tubes are bigger, thicker, and have ridges, while Cannelloni tubes are smaller, thinner, and smooth.
Step by Step Instructions - How to make cannelloni
You can find a full printable recipe card at the bottom of this page. I've included some step-by-step photos below to help you along the way.
Cannelloni can sometimes be made with dried, oven-ready cannelloni pasta tubes or with fresh pasta sheets. Here's how to make the best beef cannelloni:
Cook the spinach:
If using fresh vs. frozen spinach, you will need to cook the spinach first. Place about 2 inches of water in a pot on the stove and bring to a boil. Add the spinach leaves. Pack them in, they do not have to be touching the water. Cover and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Strain, then chop and set aside.
Step 1 - You will need a 9x13-inch casserole dish for this recipe. Preheat oven to 350°F.
Step 2 - In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil, garlic, onions, green pepper and mushrooms., stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook until soft, about five minutes.
Step 3 - To the vegetable mixture, add the ground beef (minced beef), Italian seasoning and Worcestershire sauce.
Step 4 - Cook over medium-high heat until beef is completely cooked and no longer pink and the vegetables are soft. Drain any excess fat from the meat.
Step 5 - Stir in the cooked, chopped spinach. If using frozen spinach, simply thaw and stir in.
Step 6 - Stir in 1 cup of the marinara sauce to the spinach beef mixture and stir until combined. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper to taste.
Tip: If the mixture seems too moist due to the mushrooms releasing a lot of moisture, add in 1 Tablespoon of tomato paste to the mixture.
Step 7 - Place meat mixture in a food processor and pulse for a few seconds. Processing the meat mixture for a few seconds will break up any large pieces and create a smooth texture, making it easier to pipe through a bag and the perfect consistency for your cannelloni.
Simply pulse for a few seconds. Do not over-process!
Step 8 - Lightly coat the bottom of 9x13-inch baking dish with marinara sauce.
How do you fill cannelloni?
Step 8 - How to fill cannellonni the easiest way! Use a large bowl or measuring cup to stand the canneloni shells upright. Next, fill a decorator bag (piping bag) with the beef mixture and fill each cannelloni tube by stuffing the pasta into the opening. A large ziplock bag will do the trick here too! Alternatively, you can do this with a spoon or even with clean hands.
Step 9 - Place the filled cannelloni tubes in the bottom of casserole dish in a single layer. Take the remaining marinara sauce and pour over the filled cannelloni shells in the baking dish.
It may seem like a lot of sauce, but a lot of the sauce will be soaked up by the noodles and you will need some extra sauce to serve with each helping.
Step 11 - Cover with aluminum foil and bake in 350°F oven for 35 minutes until cheese is melted and marinara sauce is bubbling at the edges. Remove foil and bake another 5 to 10 minutes until cheese starts to brown a little on top.
Tip: Spray the aluminum foil lightly with baking spray to stop the foil from stick to the cheese.
Sprinkle with fresh parsley or chopped fresh basil. Serve immediately with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and enjoy! If you enjoyed the delicious cheesy flavor of this recipe, please take a moment and write a comment at the bottom of this page. It would mean so much to me!
Variations for the best cannelloni recipe
Cannelloni with tomato sauce - to make with tomato sauce, simply sub the marinara sauce for good quality tomato sauce.
What to eat with beef cannelloni
Serve with garlic bread and salad for a beautiful meal. A side of veggies like these roasted carrots is also a nice compliment to this meal. A side of veggies is always a lovely compliment to a pasta dinner.
Storage, Freezing & Reheating Instructions for Cannelloni
Store cooked leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Alternatively, cover casserole dish with plastic wrap. Reheat in microwave in 30 second intervals until heated throughout.
Can I freeze leftover cannelloni?
Yes! Leftover cannelloni can be frozen in an airtight container for up to two months. To serve, thaw, then reheat.
Can I freeze uncooked beef canneloni?
Yes. Freeze uncooked and thaw before baking as per recipe instructions.
How do you cook frozen cannelloni?
To cook frozen cannelloni, thaw in refrigerator overnight. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in 350°F for 35 minutes, until cheese is melted and marinara sauce is bubbling at the edges. Remove foil and bake another 5 to 10 minutes until cheese starts to brown a little on top.
Can I cook cannelloni from frozen without thawing?
Preheat oven to 375°F degrees F, Cook for 65 – 70 minutes . (I recommend thawing first as preferred method)
Frequently Asked Questions
What distinguishes cannelloni from lasagne is that the pasta sheets in cannelloni are rolled around the filling, whereas in lasagne, they are layered with the filling. This results in a distinct appearance and texture when served.
Once the filling is prepared, use a spoon or piping bag to fill each cannelloni tube. Be careful not to overfill them as they may burst while cooking.