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  • Writer's picturePasta Grammar

How to Make “Manicotti” Like an Italian | Cannelloni Recipe

What Italian-Americans came to call “manicotti” comes from a similar Italian dish called cannelloni. This baked pasta dish is made with rolled tubes of fresh, homemade pasta stuffed with a delicious filling, covered with a mouth-watering sauce and baked to perfection. In this case we’ve chosen one of the most popular cannelloni variations which uses ragù alla Bolognese and besciamella sauce for both filling and topping.

How to Make “Manicotti” Like an Italian | Cannelloni Recipe

If you like manicotti but want to see what a world of difference fresh egg pasta makes over pre-packaged dried tubes, you need to try this recipe!

Advance Prep

In order to make truly excellent cannelloni, you’ll need to make your own homemade fresh egg pasta dough and ragù alla Bolognese. Luckily, both of these can be made in advance, so feel free to prepare them a day or two before making cannelloni. Wrap the pasta dough in plastic and keep it refrigerated until it’s time to roll. The ragù can be refrigerated (or even frozen), but we recommend letting it warm to room temperature before assembling the cannelloni.

Watch the Pasta Grammar video:


Makes: 8 servings

Cook Time: 2 ½ hours

For this recipe, you will need:

  • 5 tablespoons (80 g) unsalted butter

  • ½ cup (80 g) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the pasta

  • 3 cups (700 ml) whole milk, room temperature

  • Salt

  • Fresh black pepper

  • Ground nutmeg

  • 3 servings fresh egg pasta dough (made with 3 eggs + 2 cups, or 300 g, all-purpose flour)

  • 5 cups (~1 liter) ragù alla Bolognese

  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, to taste

Begin by preparing the besciamella sauce. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium/low heat. As soon as it has melted completely, add the flour and stir with a whisk. A thick roux will quickly form. Gradually add the milk while continuing to whisk.

Once the milk is incorporated and the roux has dissolved, turn the heat to low. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the besciamella thickens into a gravy-like consistency. Stir in a pinch of salt, black pepper and nutmeg to taste. Turn off the heat and set the besciamella aside for later.

If you have access to a pasta machine, we recommend using it to roll the pasta sheets. Otherwise, you can use a rolling pin and cut appropriately sized squares to fit, it will just take a little longer.

Set up a pasta machine for the widest (usually #0 or #1) setting. Cut about ⅓ of the pasta dough off from the rest, keeping the remainder wrapped in plastic while you work on the first piece. Lightly dust the pasta dough with flour, press it flat under your palm, and roll it with the machine. Continue to roll the pasta, setting the machine rollers one notch narrower (from #2 to #3, for instance) after each cycle. If, at any time, the pasta sheet becomes too long to handle comfortably, you can cut it in half and keep rolling it as two independent, shorter pieces. Dust the pasta with flour if it starts to stick.

Keep rolling the pasta sheet until you achieve a thickness of about 5/16 of an inch (0.8 mm). This equates to a #7 setting on a standard Marcato Atlas 150 machine, but different machines will vary. Don’t stress the measurement too much, the pasta thickness is largely a matter of taste.

Using a knife or a bench scraper, cut the pasta sheets into rectangular pieces about 6x4 inches (15x10.5 cm). Gather up any remaining scraps, you can roll these with the next batch. Set the cut squares aside and either dust them with flour or keep them separated to avoid sticking. Repeat these steps to roll and cut the remaining pasta dough.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cover a large work surface with clean kitchen towels. Salt the water generously and drop three pasta squares in. Boil the pasta for 20-30 seconds, then remove the squares from the water with tongs and lay them flat on the towels, being careful to keep the pieces separated so they don’t stick together. Continue to boil the pasta squares in batches until all of the pieces are cooked.

Spread a very thin layer of ragù in the bottom of a 9x13 inch (23x33 cm) lasagna baking dish. You don’t need a lot, just enough to grease the dish. In a mixing bowl, combine roughly ⅓ of the remaining ragù with ⅓ of the besciamella sauce (give it a good stir to break up any skin on the surface). Add a generous grating of Parmigiano cheese to taste. Mix thoroughly.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C).

Using spoons or a piping bag, spread a line of the ragù/besciamella mixture along one of the long edges of a cooked pasta square—about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. Roll the pasta sheet up, like a rug, to enclose the filling. Place the pasta roll in the bottom corner of the lasagna dish. The pasta rolls can be arranged any way you like and/or they fit, but they should line up pretty well if parallel with the long side of the baking dish.

Fill and roll the remaining pasta squares and place them in the dish until the whole bottom is covered in a complete, single layer. You may have some pasta left over, depending on how thin you rolled it.

Spread a thick layer of pure ragù to cover all of the pasta. Top the ragù with a similarly thick layer of besciamella sauce, spread from edge to edge. Finally, top the cannelloni with a generous grating of Parmigiano cheese. Cover the dish with aluminum foil.

Bake the cannelloni for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the top becomes slightly crispy and golden. Let the cannelloni rest for 15 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Buon appetito!

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