Cannelloni stuffed with dreamy pesto ricotta, baked in a rich tomato sauce & topped with copious amounts of cheese!
Cannelloni is one of those dishes that looks like it requires a lot of effort to make, but in reality, it’s actually pretty breezy. Especially after you get in the swing of things. Plus, it’s just too outrageously delicious NOT to make! Follow me…
Traditionally you’ll see cannelloni stuffed with spinach and ricotta. I have done this in the past, but as of recently, I’ve started trading out the spinach for pesto. You get heaps more flavour this way!
I love whipping up a homemade pesto for this recipe for a couple of different reasons:
- So you can control the amount of oil. You don’t want it too oily, otherwise, it’ll make the filling too thin.
- Because I’m a food snob and homemade pesto is better than store-bought 😛
Pesto Ricotta Filling
Once you’ve made the pesto, you’ll want to mix it in with the other classic cannelloni fillings: ricotta, mozzarella and an egg.
Process shots: add pesto ingredients to food processor (photo 1), pulse until combined (photo 2), add to mixing bowl with egg, mozzarella and ricotta (photo 3), mix to combine (photo 4).
How to fill Cannelloni
Some people deem this step tedious, but I find it quite therapeutic. I suppose because I’m not a baker it’s not often I get to whip out the mighty piping bag!
What can I use instead of a piping bag?
A piping bag works best, but I have also been known to just use a large zip-lock bag and cut off the corner.
What is the easiest way to fill cannelloni?
The first tip before you even start with the cannelloni is to place the piping bag in a pint-sized glass. This makes it MUCH easier to fill with the pesto ricotta. Once you’ve filled the bag, the easiest way is to work one by one and fill each cannelloni halfway from each end. I’ve tried stacking them all up in dishes before, but they always topple over and it becomes more hassle than it’s worth!
Process shots: fill piping bag over glass (photo 1), cut off corner (photo 2), fill cannelloni (photo 3).
The number 1 mistake you can make when cooking cannelloni is not having enough sauce. I don’t know about you, but the first few times I made cannelloni, it always came out dry. You’ll be surprised just how much the cannelloni soaks up, so although it may seem like a lot of sauce, you need it!
Simple Tomato Sauce
This sauce is simple, but it’s still delicious, especially after a long simmer to marry the flavours together. I recommend making the sauce in a large cast iron skillet, that way you add the cannelloni right in and bake everything in the same dish.
Process shots: fry onion (photo 1), fry garlic (photo 2), add passata and veg stock (photo 3), add parsley and seasoning then simmer (photo 4), scoop out half of the sauce and add cannelloni (photo 5), pour back over the sauce (photo 6).
How to cook Cannelloni
The cooking will take place in two stages:
- Cover in foil and bake – This will trap the steam and help keep everything nice and saucy as the cannelloni cooks.
- Remove foil and bake – This is your opportunity to load on the cheese and bake until golden and bubbly!
What can I use if I don’t have an oven-safe skillet?
Just use a regular pan to make the sauce, then use a separate baking dish to bake everything. In all cases I recommend adding the dry cannelloni to the pan/dish right at the very start, just to get an idea of how they’re going to fit.
Process shots: cover with foil and bake (photo 1), remove foil (photo 2), add mozzarella and parmesan (photo 3), bake again (photo 4).
Serving Pesto Ricotta Cannelloni
Once it’s all baked I like to top it with any leftover basil or parsley I’ve got lurking about, then serve with more parmesan if I’m feeling extra cheesy! This is a pretty hearty meal, but you could add Garlic Bread, Cheesy Garlic Bread or even Pesto Cheesy Garlic Bread!
Alrighty, let’s tuck into the full recipe for this pesto ricotta cannelloni shall we?!
How to make Pesto Ricotta Cannelloni (Full Recipe & Video)
Pesto Ricotta Cannelloni
- 12" Cast Iron Skillet & Wooden Spoon (or large pan and large baking dish)
- Food Processor (for pesto)
- Medium Sized Mixing Bowl (for filling)
- Piping Bag & Pint Glass
- Aluminium Foil
- Fine Cheese Grater
Ingredients (check list):
- 4 cups / 1kg Tomato Passata (pureed/strained tomatoes in US)
- 2 cups / 500ml Vegetable Stock
- 1/4 cup finely diced Fresh Parsley
- 2 heaped tbsp Tomato Puree (Tomato Paste in US)
- 1 medium Onion, finely diced
- 3 large cloves of Garlic, finely diced
- 1/2 tsp Sugar, or to taste
- pinch of Chilli Flakes, to taste
- Salt & Black Pepper, to taste
- Olive Oil, as needed
- 2oz / 60g Fresh Basil (2x small bunches)
- 1/2 cup / 40g freshly grated Parmesan
- 4 tbsp Pine Nuts, optionally toasted
- 3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 clove of Garlic
- 1/4 tsp EACH: Salt, Black Pepper, or to taste
- 16 Dried Cannelloni Tubes (~5.6oz/160g total)
- 1lb / 500g Ricotta (full fat)
- 9oz / 250g Mozzarella, half for filling, half for topping (see notes)
- 1/2 cup / 40g freshly grated Parmesan, for topping (plus more to serve if desired)
- 1 Egg
- Salt & Pepper, as needed
- Sauce: Add a drizzle of oil to a 12" cast iron skillet (or regular pan) and fry the onion until soft & golden. Add garlic and fry for 1-2mins longer, then pour in passata and stock. Add parsley, chilli flakes, sugar, salt & pepper and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir occasionally over low-medium for 30mins to marry the flavours and thicken the sauce. Meanwhile...
- Pesto: Add basil, pine nuts, parmesan, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to a food processor and blitz until well combined (use a spatula to scrape down the sides in between pulses if needed).
- Filling: In a medium-sized mixing bowl combine the pesto with ricotta and half the mozzarella. Test for seasoning then mix in the egg until evenly combined.
- Cannelloni: Place a piping bag over a pint glass and add the pesto ricotta. Snip off the bottom to around half the diameter of the cannelloni. One by squeeze the pesto ricotta into the cannelloni until they're all packed full.
- Prep to Bake: Scoop out around half of the cooked sauce and place into a jug or bowl to one side. Tightly place the filled cannelloni on to the sauce, then pour over the rest, making sure all the cannelloni is covered. If you were using a regular pan just pour half of the sauce into a baking dish, then top with cannelloni and the rest of the sauce.
- Bake: Cover with foil and bake in the oven at 180C/350F for 30mins. Then remove the foil, top with the rest of the mozzarella and parmesan, then place back in the oven at 200C/400F for 10-15mins, or until golden/crisp on top.
- Serve: Sprinkle over any leftover basil/parsley you've got, then serve up and enjoy!
Quick 1 min demo!
Your Private Notes:
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