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Easy & Delicious Baked Beef Cannelloni Recipe with Spinach

If you love Italian cuisine, then this Easy & Delicious Baked Beef Cannelloni with Spinach is for you!

The combination of the savory filling that’s stuffed into cannelloni shells, then smothered with marinara sauce and gooey mozzarella cheese is the ultimate Italian comfort food. Once you’ve tried this recipe, my next favorite is jumbo cheese stuffed shells and these easy lasagna rollups.


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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.

Ingredients for beef and spinac canneloni in small bowls on a countertop.
  • 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.

Cannelonni, left & Manicotti, right

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.

Onions, green peppers and mushrooms in a skillet with a wooden spoon.

Step 1 – You will need a 9×13-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.

Ground beef is added to vegetable mixture in skillet with wooden spoon.

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.

Cooked spinach is added to the ground beef mixture.

Step 5Stir in the cooked, chopped spinach. If using frozen spinach, simply thaw and stir in.

Marinara sauce is added to the ground beef mixture in skillet.

Step 6Stir 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.

Beef and spinach mixture for the cannelloni is added to the food processor.

Step 7Place 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 8Lightly coat the bottom of 9×13-inch baking dish with marinara sauce.

How do you fill cannelloni?

Cannelonni noodles standing upright in a measuring cup with a pastry bag filled with meat mixture being piped into the cannelloni tubes.

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.

Filled canneloni tubes are place in a single layer in 9x13-inch baking dish.
I’ve spread the cannelloni out in this photo but you can position them more close together to fill the dish.

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.

Mozzarella cheese is sprinkled on top of the cannelloni.

Step 10Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. (It’s the one of the best cheese for pasta) and the best cheese for melting.

Baked beef and spinach cannelloni in a baking dish, sprinkled with parsley.

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.

Serving of beef cannelonni on a spatula, ready to be plated.

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 white sauce

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.

For dessert, try my lemon ricotta cookies and Italian ricotta cookies with a delicious cup of coffee!

Serving of beef canneloni with spinach on a white plate with a fork.

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 is the difference between beef cannelloni and lasagne?

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.

How do you fill cannelloni?


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.

Try these pasta recipes next!

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Three beef and spinach cannelonnis on a white plate with a fork.

Easy Beef Cannelloni with Spinach


5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 7 reviews

  • Author: Sandra Flegg
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Description

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. It’s the ultimate Italian comfort food!


Ingredients

20 to 24 cannelloni shells

1 and 1/2 pounds ground beef (lean)

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

1 cup mushrooms, chopped

250g (8 ounces) fresh Spinach, cooked and chopped

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

2 jars (650 mL each/approx 40 0ounces) marinara sauce

2 and 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Salt & black pepper to taste.

Fresh parsley


Instructions

  1. You will need a 9×13-inch casserole dish for this recipe. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil, garlic, onions, green pepper and mushrooms. Cook until soft, about five minutes. 

  3. To the vegetable mixture, add the ground beef, Italian seasoning and Worcestershire sauce. 

  4. Cook until beef is completely cooked and no longer pink and the vegetables are soft. Drain any excess fat from the meat. 

  5. Stir in cooked, chopped spinach. 

  6. Stir in 1 cup of the marinara sauce and stir until combined.  Taste the spinach beef mixture and add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Place meat 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. Simply pulse for a few seconds. This will make it easier to pipe into the cannelloni tubes. Do not over-process!
  8. Lightly coat the bottom of 9×13-inch baking dish with marinara sauce. 

    Use a large bowl or measuring cup to stand the canneloni tubes upright. Fill a decorator bag (piping bag) with the beef mixture and fill each cannelloni tube by stuffing the pasta. 

  9. Place the filled cannelloni tubes in the bottom of casserole dish. Pour the remaining marinara sauce over the filled cannelloni in the baking dish. 
  10. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. 
  11. 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. 
  12. Sprinkle with fresh parsley. Serve immediately with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Notes

How to cook spinach: 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 and chop. Set aside. 

Storage: Store cooked leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat in microwave in 30 second intervals until heated throughout. 

Reheating: Reheat in microwave in 30 second intervals until heated throughout. 

Freezing leftovers: Leftover cannelloni can be frozen in an airtight container for up to two months. To serve, thaw, then reheat. 

Freeze uncooked cannelloni:  Freeze uncooked and thaw before baking as per recipe instructions.

What to serve with beef cannelloni: A side salad, garlic bread a side of vegetables.

Recipe inspired by recipetineats.com

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Category: Dinner, Pasta
  • Method: Oven Baked
  • Cuisine: Italian, American-Italian

10 Comments

  1. This looks so good and I am so hungry right now! I wish I could snap my fingers and have this right now. Can’t wait to try this recipe. YUM!






  2. Cannelloni has got to be one of my favorite Italian meals ever, and this recipe is spot on! Simple, but very delicious.






  3. This pasta dish was just what I needed to end a busy work week. So tasty and comforting! All of the ingredients work well together and creates a belly filling dish.






  4. This baked beef cannelloni with spinach recipe will definitely hit with my family! So easy to make and looks so delicious! I can’t believe how simple this recipe is to prepare, and the end result looks absolutely mouth-watering. I can’t wait to try this very soon. Thank you for sharing such delicious recipe. Amazing!






  5. So much better to enjoy the baked beef cannelloni homemade instead of store bought and so worth the effort as they are easy to make to please the family. Great recipe and tips to fill them thank you!






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