Italian Sausage Spinach Cannelloni

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“This is the recipe I made (and froze) for my husband and my first night in our apartment after we got married. It comes from Land O'Lakes Recipe Collection Pasta! published in 1992. My mom made this when I was younger, and my sister and I requested it simply for the tomato sauce on pasta. To avoid having to boil the manicotti tubes, simply double the bechamel and tomato sauces. I've made it that way and it works perfectly. Otherwise the noodles tend to stick together closed making filling them impossible. This recipe is completely worth the time and effort!”
1hr 45mins
1 13x9 inch pan

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 14 uncooked dry manicotti (pasta tubes)
  • 14 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 (28 ounce) can Italian tomatoes, coarsely chopped, reserve juice
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves (I get canned tomatoes with basil or use 2 t dried basil)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 12 teaspoon salt
  • 14 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper (fresh!)
  • 1 lb bulk Italian sausage (I made my own using ground pork and the Italian sausage version in Quick & Easy Pork Sausage which was awesome )
  • 14 cup chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach (I used frozen chopped spinach, fully defrosted until around 3/4 cup to account for the wilting)
  • 13 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (I use the green can)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (I use 1 t dried)
  • 14 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper (fresh!)
  • 14 cup butter (Since it's from a Land O'Lakes cookbook, they call for Land O'Lakes)
  • 14 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 14 teaspoon white pepper (No one will see the bechamel sauce once it's under the tomato sauce, so I just use fresh coarsely gr)
  • 14 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (again, cheese from the green can)


  1. Cook manicotti according to package directions; drain. Set aside. (Or don't and increase the sauce measurements. If increasing the sauce measurements you may want to use a roaster or a deeper pan.).
  2. To prepare tomato sauce: In Dutch oven (or large heavy saucepan) add olive oil and 1 cup onions. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until onions are soft (5-8 minutes). Add tomatoes, reserved juice, and all remaining sauce ingredients (tomato paste, basil, sugar, 1/2 t salt, and 1/4 t pepper). Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until sauce just comes to a boil (2-4 minutes). Cover; reduce heat to low. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, 35 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, to prepare filling: in 10-inch skillet add sausage, 1/4 cup onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sausage is browned (10-12 minutes). Drain off fat. Add spinach. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until spinach is soft (2-3 minutes). Place sausage mixture in large bowl. Cool 10 minutes. Stir in 1/3 cup Parmesan, eggs, oregano, and 1/4 t pepper. Set aside.
  4. To prepare bechamel sauce: in 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour until smooth and bubbly (1 minute). Add milk, whipping cream, and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens (5-8 minutes).
  5. Heat oven to 375. Divide filling between manicotti tubes using a small spoon to fill each tube with about 2 T of filling (I use my clean hands--think stuffing a roll of coins). Place 1/4 cup tomato sauce on bottom of 13x9x2-inch baking pan (more if you don't boil the noodles and in a deeper pan). Place filled tubes on top of tomato sauce. Pour bechamel sauce over tubes. Top with remaining tomato sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted.
  6. **This is a great OAMC recipe. Before cooking/prep day, I would prepare the tomato sauce and sausage/spinach filling mixture and chill (I would prepare the tomato sauce anyway to serve as a pasta sauce--I could literally drink the stuff!). Make the bechamel sauce the day of your big session. Fill the tubes and prep the pans. Cook 45 minutes (Covered!), wrap in foil and freeze. On "eating day," cook at 375 until tubes are al dente (they probably already will be) and bubbly and cheese is melted. I would keep it covered for most of the cooking time. This is a very very rich recipe, so I would serve with a salad of bitter greens tossed in a sharp vinaigrette. It says it serves 8, but, as I said, the sauces are so rich that I can't really eat more than one tube, so I would say it serves 14.

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