Meat-Filled Cannelloni - Manicott in Bechamel Sauce

Meat-filled manicotti in white sauce
Meat-filled manicotti in white sauce. Clive Streeter/Getty
Ratings (9)
  • Total: 100 mins
  • Prep: 30 mins
  • Cook: 70 mins
  • Yield: 6-8 servings

Tube-shaped cannelloni (more commonly called "manicotti" in the U.S.), probably came into existence sometime between 1890 and 1920, because Pellegrino Artusi, who was quick to add new recipes to his encyclopedic 1890 book on regional Italian cuisine, La scienza in cucina e l'arte di mangiar bene ("The Science of Cuisine and the Art of Eating Well"), doesn't mention them, whereas Ada Boni, writing in 1929, does.

Here's a classic, quite simple recipe for cannelloni/manicotti with a hearty meat filling and a creamy white béchamel sauce.

[Edited, modified and expanded by Danette St. Onge on March 26, 2016.]


  • 1 pound cannelloni shells (use 3 1/3 cups flour and 4 eggs if you're making the pasta from scratch)
  • For the Filling:
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 small onion, peeled and minced
  • 2 ounces prosciutto, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 3/4 pound plum tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • Fine sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup day-old bread (crust removed), crumbled
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • For the Besciamella Sauce (2 cups):Follow this illustrated procedure.

Steps to Make It

  1. Begin by making the pasta dough, if you're making fresh pasta from scratch.

  2. While it's resting, prepare the filling:

  3. Saute the onion and the prosciutto in the butter, and when the onion is lightly browned (about 5 minutes), add the beef and the bay leaf. Cook, stirring, until the meat has browned, about 5 minutes, then stir in the flour and the tomatoes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.

  4. While the sauce is simmering, roll out the dough if you're starting from scratch, and cut it into 3-inch by 4-inch rectangles. Once the pasta is cut, cook it a few pieces at a time in abundant, lightly salted water (if you're using dried pasta tubes, follow the directions on the package). Remove the pasta from the water with a slotted spoon while it's still al dente, and lay the pieces on a damp kitchen cloth, taking care not to let them touch, or they might stick to each other.

  5. When the sauce has finished simmering, remove it from heat and discard the bay leaf. Soak the bread in the milk for about 10 minutes until the bread is softened, then squeeze to drain off the excess liquid (the bread should be wet but not dripping). Combine the soaked bread, egg, and grated cheese, and then combine with the meat mixture, stirring until everything is uniform.

  6. Preheat the oven to 425 F.

  7. You are now ready to fill your cannelloni: lay some of the fillings along the long edge of the first pasta sheet, roll it up to form a cylinder, and place it in a well buttered baking dish. Repeat the procedure until pasta and filling are all used up. If using premade pasta tubes: use a spoon to stuff each tube with some of the meat fillings.

  8. Prepare 2 cups of besciamella sauce following the illustrated step-by-step instructions here.

  9. Pour the besciamella over the cannelloni, dust everything with a little more grated Parmigiano and dot it with a little more butter, then bake for 10-15 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Serve hot, with a zesty red wine such as a Chianti or a lively Dolcetto.