Chefs' Recipes

Sarah Cicolini's beef and ricotta cannelloni

This cannelloni recipe is the type of pasta dish that will impress your dinner guests to no end. Save it for occasions when you need to pull out all stops.

By Sarah Cicolini
  • 25 mins preparation
  • 1 hr 30 mins cooking plus resting
  • Serves 6
  • Print
"Cannelloni isn't your everyday pasta," says Sarah Cicolini, head chef and co-owner at Rome's Santo Palato. "Thanks to the numerous components, cannelloni signals a festive occasion, like a holiday or a Sunday lunch. My version uses a par-cooked besciamella – I like it to finish cooking in the oven with the pasta – and scales back the quantity of meat, which I think gives the final dish greater balance."


  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for greasing
  • 150 gm Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
Pasta dough
  • 500 gm (3⅓ cups) "00" flour
  • 180 gm (about 3) eggs
  • 100 gm (about 5) egg yolks
  • 120 gm unsalted butter
  • 90 gm "00" flour, sifted
  • 1 small nutmeg, finely grated
  • 1 litre (4 cups) whole milk, at room temperature
Beef filling
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 80 gm unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 250 gm finely minced beef
  • 350 gm ricotta, preferably sheep's milk
  • ½ nutmeg, finely grated
  • 100 gm (1¼ cups) Parmigiano- Reggiano, finely grated
  • 300 gm spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup (loosely packed) basil, torn
Tomato sauce
  • 100 ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 500 gm fresh cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 800 ml tomato passata
  • 1 cup (loosely packed) basil, torn


  • 1
    For pasta dough, place flour on a work surface and form a well in the centre. Place eggs and yolks in the centre and gently beat together with a fork, slowly incorporating the flour to form a dough, then knead vigorously by hand until smooth and elastic (10 minutes). Wrap dough in plastic and rest for 1 hour in the refrigerator. Feed dough through pasta machine, starting at the widest setting, reducing settings notch by notch until the second-last setting. Cut pasta into twelve 12cm-long pieces (you may have some pasta dough leftover, which can be frozen for another time). Place on a floured tray and cover with a tea towel.
  • 2
    For besciamella, combine butter, flour and nutmeg in a cold saucepan over low heat. Whisk until mixture begins to brown (4 minutes). Gradually add milk, whisking constantly until smooth, then bring mixture to a simmer. Remove from heat, season to taste, and continue stirring for 2 minutes until besciamella is thick but still a bit liquidy.
  • 3
    For beef filling, heat oil and butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add onion and stir occasionally until translucent (10 minutes). Add beef, season to taste, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned (15 minutes). Cool, then add ricotta, nutmeg, ParmigianoReggiano and 2 tbsp besciamella, stirring to combine, then fold in spinach and basil.
  • 4
    For tomato sauce, stir oil and garlic in a large saucepan over low heat until golden (5 minutes). Add tomatoes, season to taste, and stir occasionally, until falling apart (8 minutes). Add passata and simmer until thickened (20 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in basil.
  • 5
    Preheat oven to 180°C. Blanch two pieces of pasta at a time in a large saucepan of salted boiling water (2 minutes). Drain and lay out cooked pasta on a clean, dry surface and distribute beef filling evenly along the centre of each sheet. Roll into semi-tight tubes and place, seam-side down, in a lightly oiled tray or large baking dish to fit snugly. Cover evenly with tomato sauce, cheese and remaining besciamella and bake until the cheese is melted and edges are golden (25 minutes).


Drink suggestion: Fresh dry Lambrusco. Drink suggestion by Max Allen.