BeefCuisineDips and SaucesItalianMainsMeatQuick & Easy

Spinach Beef Cannelloni (Manicotti)

25 mins Cook
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NomNom Recipes 14 6

Beef cannelloni is a succulent spinach and beef filling topped with a generous tomato cannelloni sauce and melted cheese. It’s deliciously delicious comfort food that’s 100% freezable. Serve this recipe with cannelloni or penne!

Beef Cannelloni
Spinach Beef Cannelloni (Manicotti)NomNomWow

Beef Cannelloni

I think most people think of spinach and ricotta when they think of cannelloni. While still my favorite, this juicy spinach and ground beef version is popping up more and more in my world lately.

In fact, I make it more for friends than for myself – as it’s a delicious side dish that can be frozen and a safe bet (i.e. a meal that kids and adults alike will love it!)

This beef cannelloni recipe can be used with any cannelloni or macaroni.

What is meatloaf? What is the difference between cannelloni and manicotti? ?
Cannelloni is a tube of dry pasta filled with filling and covered with sauce and cheese as a pastry. Cannelloni tubes are not cooked when filled – they are cooked (softened) when cooked.
Manicotti is the Italian-American version of cannelloni. Same concept – pasta tubes are filled, but they’re usually bigger and often have ridges instead of a smooth surface.

This beef cannelloni recipe can be served with cannelloni or macaroni. In Australia, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen macaroni in an Italian grocery store. But cannelloni are more popular – available at all major grocery stores (Woolies, Coles, Harris).

What you need

The 3 parts of Beef Cannelloni are:

  • The Cannelloni Sauce – The key to all good cannelloni! Do the filler and make it thinner than you think – uncooked cannelloni will absorb a lot of liquid when cooking (it has to do this to cook cannelloni);
  • Spinach and Beef Stuffing – I like to use beef cubes for seasoning (aka bouillon cubes/bouillon cubes – or use powdered cubes) instead of old seasoned salt to make it even tastier . Add a little cannelloni sauce for extra juice!
  • Cannelloni tubes (above) or macaroni tubes – these are sold in tubes, uncooked, filled with filling and cooked

How to make Beef Cannelloni

There was nothing difficult about making the pieces other than filling the tubes with cannoli, which was inevitably a little messy/awkward.

But years of stuffing cannelloni have taught me one thing: the fastest and easiest way to fill cannelloni rolls is with a piping bag. Those were the times when I was too lazy to use a piping bag and then I regretted the 3 tubes of…

Use a piping bag. or zipped pocket. Anything you can use for plumbing. You will thank me later!

The moment you take this perky beauty out of the oven…I don’t know what it is, but you know it’s delicious! ! !

Seriously, cannelloni is as impossible to photograph as lasagna. There’s no way to make a plate of this cheesy succulent look elegant. Whatever – it’s a mess and I totally own it!

What to serve with Beef Cannelloni

Cannelloni is essentially just another type of pasta. I put it in the same bucket as the lasagna. This means – for a full Italian feast I would combine:

Spinach Beef Cannelloni (Manicotti)

Spinach Beef Cannelloni (Manicotti)

Beef cannelloni is a succulent spinach and beef filling topped with a generous tomato cannelloni sauce and melted cheese. It's deliciously delicious comfort food that's 100% freezable. Serve this recipe with cannelloni or penne!
prep time
10 mins
cooking time
25 mins
total time
35 mins




  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 2 garlic cloves , minced

  • 1/2 onion , finely chopped

  • 1 carrot , small, finely chopped (optional)

  • 1 celery rib , finely chopped (optional)

  • 800g / 28oz crushed tomato , canned

  • 2 cups (500ml) chicken stock / broth , low sodium (or vegetable)

  • 1/2 tsp EACH thyme, oregano, salt, pepper

  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes , optional


  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 2 garlic cloves , minced

  • 1/2 onion , finely chopped

  • 500g / 1lb beef mince , lean

  • 250g / 8oz frozen spinach, chopped , thawed, excess liquid squeezed out (Note 1)

  • 1 beef bouillon cube , crumbled (Note 2)

  • 1/2 tsp pepper

  • 1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce


  • 21 - 24 cannelloni tubes (220g/7oz) OR 10 Manicotti tubes (Note 3)

  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese , freshly grated (or other melting cheese)

  • Chopped parsley , garnish (optional)




Heat oil in large saucepan or pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add carrots and celery and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the rest of the sauce ingredients, then stir. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Blend quickly with a hand blender until smooth (or cool slightly and use a blender or food processor). on hold.

Beef stuffing with spinach:

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the beef and cook, breaking it up as you go, until everything turns red to brown.
Stir in the spinach, then add the ground beef cubes, Worcestershire sauce, pepper and 1 cup cannelloni sauce. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.
Remove and cool slightly.

Assembly and cooking:

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
Place the minced meat in a piping bag with a wide nozzle.
Place the cannelloni upright in the container and pipe them. (Or use a teaspoon/fingers/dinner batter for this step!).
Spread about 1 1/4 cups of sauce in a 23 x 33 cm / 9 x 13 in. dish. Place the cannelloni on top and pour the rest of the sauce.
Sprinkle with cheese and cover loosely with foil. Bake the
for 25 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and has a few golden spots.


Spinach - I use frozen for convenience. Feel free to use fresh - you will need 200g fresh spinach (about 6-8 cups), chopped. Then dip briefly in a pot of boiling water until softened (water will add weight), then use according to recipe. Beef Stock Cubes – Also called beef stock cubes, you can also use 1 tsp powdered beef stock/granulated beef stock. It is used here to add extra flavor to the filling - better than using regular salt! Cannelloni 1 standard pack is usually 250g, there are 30 tubes, you will only use 21-24 tubes. Cannelloni is a tube of dried pasta measuring 7 cm / 3 inches long and 2 cm / 2/3 inches wide. Uncooked foods will cook and soften in the oven. Also available are manicotti - large cannelloni with ribs. The recipe will fill about 10 macaroni tubes. The also rolls the filling into fresh lasagne sheets - whatever size you want! Storage - Store cooked leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, then reheat in the microwave. Cooked leftovers can also be frozen - thaw and reheat. Uncooked Frozen (Best Freezing Method) - Add 1/2 cup additional water to sauce and stir according to recipe. Do not cook. Cover, let cool and freeze. Bake, thaw and cook according to recipe. Nutrition per serving
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