Baked Cannelloni with Béchamel Sauce

By Whisper of Yum
April 17, 2023 | Updated on May 14, 2023

Baked cannelloni pasta with béchamel sauce is a saucy, cheesy comfort meal that will warm you from the inside out. Serve this hearty Italian dish for a family dinner or at your next potluck.

If you’re a pasta lover, check out more Italian pasta recipes including my Rigatoni Bolognese and this Giant Cheese Stuffed Shells recipe.

baked cannelloni with bechamel sauce recipe in a baking dish

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Italian stuffed cannelloni are filled with a savory ricotta mixture, drenched in a homemade béchamel sauce then topped with parmesan and mozzarella cheese. The dish is oven baked to cheesy, bubbly perfection. It gets better with each mouthwatering forkful!

Why This Baked Cannelloni Recipe Works

  • Meatless Monday – If you’re leaning towards a meatless meal, this cannelloni pasta dish is one that everyone can gather around the table and enjoy.
  • Indulgent – There is something so decadent about a cheesy pasta dish. It’s baked to golden brown, gooey, cheesy deliciousness for a super satisfying, filling meal.
  • Versatile – Switch up the sauce, or the filling in order to make this dish perfectly yours!

What is Cannelloni

Cannelloni is a dry, tube-shaped pasta. These large pasta shells are typically stuffed with a filling.

What is Béchamel Sauce?

Béchamel sauce is a silky smooth white roux, made with flour, milk, butter, and (for this recipe) cheese. It’s used for everything from casseroles to sandwiches, and it elevates this baked cannelloni. There is no store-bought equivalent so homemade béchamel sauce it is!

Tools You’ll Need

  • 9 x 13 Baking Dish
baked cannelloni with bechamel sauce recipe in a baking dish

Ingredients You Will Need for Baked Cannelloni

With a few fridge and pantry staples, this recipe comes together easily.

  • Cannelloni pasta shells – These are sturdy enough to hold the ricotta filling and withstand the béchamel sauce.

Béchamel Sauce

  • Whole milk – This enriches the sauce so it’s luxuriously creamy.
  • Garlic cloves – Smashed.
  • Fresh thyme – This adds a pop of fresh herby flavor.
  • Butter – For taste.
  • All-purpose flour – The base of the sauce.
  • Nutmeg – Preferably freshly ground.
  • Dijon mustard – This adds a delightfully zesty flavor.
  • Parmesan cheese – For added depth and flavor.
  • Seasoning – Use kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste.

Ricotta Filling

  • Fresh ricotta – Use full-fat ricotta for the best results.
  • Lemon – Zested.
  • Cheese – Parmesan adds a savory, slightly nutty quality, and mozzarella for a nice melted cheese pull. Divide and freshly grate both kinds of cheese.
  • Seasoning – Season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  • Fresh basil – Chopped.
  • Large egg – To bind the ingredients.
  • Garlic cloves – Grated for fresh flavor.
three step process of how to make bechamel sauce

How To Make Baked Cannelloni

This baked cannelloni recipe requires some multitasking but it’s very simple to follow. Boil the pasta while you make the béchamel sauce. Once the pasta is cooked, whip up the ricotta mixture.

Boil Water

Bring a large pot of water to a boil while you make the béchamel sauce.

Béchamel Sauce

Place milk, thyme, and smashed garlic in a small saucepan and heat over low heat until milk mixture is warm through. Do not allow it to bubble or come to a boil. Simmer on low for 15 minutes to infuse milk thyme and garlic flavor. Remove and discard thyme and garlic just before adding to the four butter mixture. Set aside.

In a separate saucepan over medium heat, add butter and flour, whisking until evenly mixed. Cook for 3 minutes and take care to not let the mixture brown.

Gradually add the warm milk and whisk until smooth. Repeat until milk is fully incorporated in the béchamel. Keep a consistent stir for 3 minutes then add nutmeg, salt, dijon, and pepper. Cook for another two minutes, then stir in parmesan, whisking until the cheese fully dissolves. Set béchamel aside.

Cannelloni Pasta

Cook pasta in boiling salted water, according to package instructions, just until al dente. Next, rinse under old water taking care not to break the cannelloni. While pasta is cooking, make the filling.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

basil, ricotta, mozzarella, egg, salt, black pepper, and parmesan in a mixing bowl. Before and after it is mixed to show ingredients

Ricotta Filling

Add the egg, ricotta, ¾ cup mozzarella, ⅔ cup parmesan, basil, salt, black pepper, lemon zest, and garlic to a medium bowl and mix until well-combined. Transfer the filling to a quart-sized resealable bag and cut a ½-inch opening in the corner.

Fill Cannelloni

Spread ¾ cup béchamel sauce on the bottom of baking dish. Pipe filling into each cannelloni, filling it completely and carefully nestle onto the baking dish. Repeat until finished.

Bake Cannelloni

Top with remaining béchamel sauce then ⅓ cup parmesan and ½ cup mozzarella. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes or until warmed through. Then remove foil and bake under BROIL for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is golden. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before diving in. Enjoy!

step by step process on how to make baked cannelloni with bechamel sauce. Cannelloni filled with ricotta and then topped with bechamel and parmesan and mozzarella cheese

Tips and Tricks

  • Mise en place. Be sure to have all ingredients measured and prepared before starting the recipe.
  • Cook the cannelloni pasta to al dente. They do not need to be fully cooked because they will continue to cook in the oven. Otherwise, they will become mushy.
  • Do not use pre-shredded cheese. It has a waxy substance that prevents it from clumping, so it’s easier to melt. Shred the cheese yourself for a perfectly melty cheese.
  • Completely coat the stuffed cannelloni with béchamel sauce. Doing so ensures the pasta absorbs enough to soften without burning or becoming hard.

Baked Cannelloni Variations

  • Protein. For an even heartier dish, cook meat in a large skillet and add it to the cannelloni tubes. I suggest trying ground beef, sausage, chicken, veal, or seafood.
  • Sauce. Instead of béchamel, try tomato sauce, pesto, or alfredo.
  • More Add-Ins. For more nutrients, add spinach and mushrooms.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between manicotti and cannelloni?

Both are tube-shaped pastas but manicotti are larger and have ridges. Cannelloni pasta is smaller, smooth, and a bit thinner. If you can’t find cannelloni, then manicotti is a good replacement.

How long does it take to cook cannelloni?

It takes about 30 minutes to bake cannelloni.

Can you freeze cannelloni?

Stuffed cannelloni can be frozen ahead of time and baked later. Once the stuffed shells have completely cooled, freeze them in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Cook the béchamel on the day you plan to serve it. Baked cannelloni can be cooked from frozen; just add 15-20 minutes to the cooking time.

vegetarian baked cannelloni in a baking dish

Looking for More Italian Inspired Recipes

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baked cannelloni with bechamel sauce recipe in a baking dish

Baked Cannelloni with Béchamel Sauce

5 from 1 vote
Baked cannelloni pasta with béchamel sauce is a saucy, cheesy comfort meal that will warm you from the inside out. Serve this hearty Italian dish for a family dinner or at your next potluck.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Whisper of Yum
Course Dinner, Pasta
Cuisine Italian

Equipment

  • 9 x 13 Baking Dish

Ingredients

  • 12 cannelloni pasta shells

Béchamel Sauce

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 4 large cloves garlic, smashed
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • tablespoons butter
  • tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly ground
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • cup parmesan, freshly grated
  • ¾ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper,

Ricotta Filling

  • 18 ounces fresh ricotta, full-fat
  • 1 lemon zested
  • 1 cup parmesan, divided, freshly grated
  • cup mozzarella, divided, freshly grated
  • ¾ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil while you make the béchamel sauce.

Béchamel Sauce

  • Place milk, thyme, and smashed garlic in a small saucepan and heat over low heat until milk mixture is warm through. Do not allow to bubble or come to a boil. Simmer on low for 15 minutes to infuse milk thyme and garlic flavor. Remove and discard thyme and garlic just before adding to the four butter mixture. Set aside.
  • In a separate saucepan over medium heat, add butter and flour, whisking until evenly mixed. Cook for 3 minutes and take care to not let the mixture brown.
  • Gradually add the warm milk and whisk until smooth. Repeat until milk is fully incorporated in the béchamel. Keep a consistent stir for 3 minutes then add nutmeg, salt, dijon, and pepper. Cook for another two minutes, then stir in parmesan, whisking until cheese fully dissolves. Set béchamel aside.

Cannelloni Pasta

  • Cook pasta in boiling salted water, according to package instructions, just until al dente. Next, rinse under old water taking care not to break the cannelloni. While pasta is cooking, make the filling.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F.

Ricotta Filling

  • Add the egg, ricotta, ¾ cup mozzarella, ⅔ cup parmesan, basil, salt, black pepper, lemon zest, and garlic to a medium bowl and mix until well-combined. Transfer the filling to a quart-sized resealable bag and cut a ½-inch opening in the corner.

Fill Cannelloni

  • Spread ¾ cup béchamel sauce on the bottom of baking dish. Pipe filling into each cannelloni, filling it completely and carefully nestle onto the baking dish. Repeat until finished.
  • Top with remaining béchamel sauce then ⅓ cup parmesan and ½ cup mozzarella. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes or until warmed through. Then remove foil and bake under BROIL for 3-5 minutes or until cheese is golden and be sure to keep a close eye on it. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before diving in. Enjoy!
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Did you make this recipe?Leave a comment below and tag @whisperofyum on Instagram and hashtag it #whisperofyum!
baked cannelloni with bechamel sauce recipe in a baking dish

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2 Comments

  1. Karen says...

    5 stars
    I’m happy to be what looks like the first comment on this marvelous recipe. Thank you so much for a very superbly written, easy to follow & delicious recipe. I highly recommend & will definitely be making again.

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jeri-mobley

Hey, I'm Jeri!

At Whisper of Yum, we explore ALL cuisines - comfort foods, classics, elevated originals. If you love food like me, I invite you to settle in to this place, where swoon-worthy food is attainable + inspo for your next meal awaits.

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