straight tomato cannelloni

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We are back!
My better half & I went to Rome for something like a very, very long weekend – lasting almost 2 weeks. Details about our Rome adventures will appear soon – watch this space!

Italy: it’s pasta & pasta & pasta – not to mention antipasto, pizza, cheeses, desserts… All these goodies are not only cooked & baked in Italy there’s also home cooking of Italian food anywhere in the universe!

Some weeks ago I made simple cannelloni – simple classic cannelloni w/ meat & tomato sauce & melted cheese on top. Let’s share now the recipe!



I happen to have a wonderful casserole able to house 9 cannelloni. It’s perfect for 2 (w/ leftovers for the next day!) or 3 (w/o any leftovers!) or maybe even 4 (when nestling between substantial antipasto & substantial dessert!).

Let’s start – what do we need?



There are:

  • cannelloni (of course!)
  • minced beef (preferably organic!)
  • tomato purée w/ bay leaf, dried basil, carrot, spring onions & garlic
  • crushes tomatoes (canned!) w/ tomato purée & dried oregano
  • buffalo mozzarella
  • grated Parmesan (home-grated!).


For the record:
Generally I use ready-to-use cannelloni w/o requiring any pre-cooking… you know: the tubes! There are also fresh (soft!) lasagne sheets in the fridge corner of your trusted food store: you may use these by filling w/ the meat mess & rolling up.
(…of course you may start preparing your own homemade cannelloni… However, in general we don’t have time for such experiments because we are working long hours in our offices…)


Let’s chop the spring onions & the carrot & press the garlic. Start frying w/ the help of olive oil, but only some drops… Mix the minced beef w/ the herbs & the tomato purée & add to the frying mess… Stir thoroughly until the mess is well done & soft. Discard the bay leaf. Set aside.



Now start mixing the tomato sauce. Whisk well & add the grated Parmesan. Set aside.


For the record:
Classic cannelloni are made w/ béchamel sauce. I propose a cannelloni approach w/ tomato sauce… To be honest béchamel sauce is delicious, but always a little „heavy“, filling, overly creamy – therefore I prefer a light tomato sauce for my cannelloni (& my lasagna as well!).


!!! Latest moment now to start preheating your oven to 190°C w/ fan !!!



Add some of the frying oil to your casserole & spread well. Add a solid layer of tomato sauce. Then start filling the cannelloni…

If your beef mess is done & soft (like mine!) it’s quite easy: just press a piece of cannelloni in the beef mess… & press… & press… The beef mess will go up by itself!


For the record:
This method will work as long as any filling – if beef, if vegetables, if fish (or whatever!) – is soft i. e. not runny, not firm!
If it’s runny start thinking about how to thicken slightly the filling.
If it’s too firm use a spoon or some sort of cone – it’s getting messy (belief me).


It is essential to prepare some more meat than you’ll need actually because you’ll have to fill also the last piece of cannelloni. What to do w/ the leftover meat? Just freeze it: it’s perfect Italian style minced beef – whenever you do the next spaghetti bolognese…



Line the cannelloni in the casserole.

Then cover the cannelloni w/ another solid layer of tomato sauce.

Then cover the tomato sauce w/ mozzarella slices.

Then put your casserole in the preheated oven… & about 30 min later…






straight tomato cannelloni
Classic cannelloni filled w/ minced beef in a tomato sauce (!) - yes: no béchamel sauce - covered by a crispy mozzarella layer.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time30 mins
  • 9 cannelloni w/o pre-cooking
for the filling:
  • 450-550 g minced beef
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 bay leave
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 cans tomato purée 140 g
  • some olive oil - OPTIONAL
  • salt & pepper
for the sauce:
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes 400 g
  • 1 can tomato purée 70 g
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 40-50 g grated Parmesan
on top:
  • 1 buffalo mozzarella 125 g
  • 1 casserole 32 cm
how to:
  • Preheat the oven to 190° C w/ fan.
  • Clean & trim & chop the spring onions & the carrot.
  • Press the clove of garlic.
  • Add minced beef, vegetables & herbs as well as the tomato purée in a pan & start frying.
  • If it seems to dry add some olive oil (about 1 tsp!).
  • After about 10 min everything should be well done & well mixed.
  • Transfer to a bowl & set aside.
  • Discard bay leave.
  • Grate the Parmesan.
  • For the sauce mix all ingredients.
  • Slice the mozzarella as thin as possible.
  • Add some oil from the pan to the casserole & oil bottom & sides.
  • Add a solid layer of the tomato sauce.
  • Take one of the cannelloni & push it in the minced beef mess... & again... & again... The beef mess will start filling the pasta by itself.
  • Lay the filled pasta in the casserole.
  • Repeat for the next 8 cannelloni.
  • Add another layer of tomato sauce.
  • Distribute the mozzarella slices on top.
  • Bake in the oven for about 30 min.
  • If unsure make the test w/ the wooden pin...
  • Serve at once - attention: really, really hot!!!
Prep Time: includes the frying of the meat.
Minced beef: if you use organic beef as a rule there is less fat & almost no water in the meat - so watch when frying.
Amount of minced meat: I recommend to use some more meat than you need for the cannelloni - therefore 550 g instead of 450 g. If you like to fill the cannelloni as I described you need some more meat in your bowl for the last of the cannelloni. Leftover fried meat may be used for any other pasta dish (just freeze it!).
You may store the cannelloni in the fridge for at least 2 days. Reheat in the microwave.
You may also freeze the cannelloni.


(information on equipment)


Serve at once…



…or let it rest for some minutes (not longer than 30 min!)!



The tomato sauce will get soaked up – that’s fine. We just have sticky tomato mess all around the cannelloni.


Is it greasy? No – there’s only the fried meat & the mozzarella. It’s far less filling than cannelloni in béchamel sauce.


My casserole is fit for 9 cannelloni; maybe you could squeeze in a 10th one… (it gets tricky!). Of course you can also do only 8 or 7 or 6 cannelloni… (it gets tricky, too, because of the sauce!). I think it’s fine for 3 or 4 people – you are able to store any leftovers in your fridge or freeze them. When reheating in your microwave it’s just fine.



The businesswoman w/ too many office hours thinks

I was really surprised that it’s only about 60 min to do cannelloni – in my mind I always thought of long hours to prepare cannelloni… the better, the better.
I could double the amount of meat including doubling all the other ingredients for the meat mess… No change in time! Then I use half of the meat for the cannelloni & the rest marches in my freezer to become some sort of easy fast bolognese.




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