Cannelloni is a pasta dish similar to lasagna-the only difference is that the sheets of pasta are filled and rolled into long tubes instead of layering the sheets with the filling. This is a vegetarian lower calorie version, but is still just as comforting and satisfying as the heavier traditional version of cannelloni.
I do not put any meat in this recipe, but you can absolutely add Italian sausage or ground beef to give it more oomph. Instead of meat I put mushrooms to give it that hearty texture, but you can add zucchini, red peppers, eggplant… The only trick with adding all those vegetables is you need to sauté in a skillet until all the water it out otherwise your cannelloni will be soggy.
Now, on to the cannelloni noodles… I am very lucky to have Central Market (HEB) and several Italian markets near me so I use the “fresh” lasagna sheets I find there. BUT, have no fear if you do not have a store that sells “fresh’ lasagna sheets. You can use dried lasagna sheets or dried cannelloni noodles. If you only have stores that carry dried pasta try and look for lasagna sheets not noodles and the only reason I say that is because the lasagna noodles are thinner, but if that is all you can find then use that! Its not a big deal! Bottom line is you are rolling pasta around a filling and baking… don’t over think it.
Now, if you can only find dried cannelloni or manicotti (cannelloni tubes are smooth and manicotti have ridges) the easiest way to fill the tubes is the put the filling into a ziplock bag and cut off one corner and use it as a “pastry bag” and fill the tubes. You will add about 10 minutes to the cooking process if you use dried, uncooked tubes.
A lighter version of the classis Italian dish.
- 8 lasagna sheets (fresh will save more time)
- 1 10oz frozen box of spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 small onion, chopped
- 1 pint mushrooms, sliced
- 4 egg whites
- 1 Cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil (or 1 Tablespoon fresh basil, chopped)
- 4 Cups jarred marinara sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (add more if you like it spicy)
- 1 small ball of fresh mozzarella or 1 cup sherdded
- Cooking Spray
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
If you are using dried lasagna sheets- boil a large pot of water. Add 2 Tablespoons Kosher salt to water. Add lasagna sheets and stir to ensure they do not stick together. Cook according to the package directions-about 8 minutes. Drain the sheets and lay on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray until ready to use.
If using fresh pasta sheets cut them in half.
In a skillet heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onions and mushrooms. Cook until soft and all moisture is out of mushrooms. About 5 minutes.
In a medium sized bowl, whisk egg whites with an electric hand mixer or whisk until medium peaks are formed.
To the egg whites add onions, mushrooms, spinach, ricotta, 1/2 of the Parmesean and basil. Mix well and seaon with salt and pepper.
Lay out lasagna sheets on cutting board. Place about 2-4 Tablespoons spinach mixture on the top third of the pasta sheet. Roll into a tube.
In a 13 x 9 inch baking dish spray with cooking spray. Spoon about 1 cup marinara sauce on bottom. Place rolled pasta seam side down in baking sheet.
Spoon the remaining sauce on top of cannelloni. Top with mozzarella and remaining Parmesean.
Cover with foil and bake 25-30 minutes or until heated through. Let cool then serve with extra sauce.
Be sure to place the thawed spinach in a heavy duty paper towel or kitchen towel and squeeze all the liquid out. There is lots of water in spinach and it will make your cannelloni soggy.
If you want to add more vegetables place in the skillet with the onions and mushrooms.