Low Fat Ricotta and Beef Cannelloni

In case you’re unfamiliar, cannelloni is essentially stuffed pasta rolls baked in a cheese sauce. This spin on a classic cannelloni recipe uses readily available ingredients and a few healthier options to reduce the fat and calorie content. 

When it’s all said and done, you’ll have beef and ricotta stuffed lasagne rolls smothered in a blend of marina, alfredo sauce, and parmesan cheese. Each extra cheesy, beefy serving has 23 grams of filling protein with just 280 calories and 8 grams of fat! 

A healthier, easier cannelloni recipe with ground beef and ricotta stuffed lasagna shells baked in a blend of marinara, alfredo sauce, and parmesan.

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How to Make Cannelloni 

Stuffed pasta shells baked in cheese sauce may sound complicated at first glance, but it’s a pretty simple recipe. I’ll quickly run you through the recipe parts below and give a few ingredient notes along the way. 

  1. Cook the filling.
  2. Stuff the pasta with the filling.
  3. Cover with marinara, alfredo sauce, and parmesan cheese.
  4. Bake. Serve. Enjoy!  

How to Make the Filling

Unlike my bolognese recipe, this is a barebones beef mixture. All you need to do is cook ground beef in a skillet with diced onion, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Then let it cool slightly before mixing in ricotta and chopped parsley. 

ground beef cooked with onion and garlic mixed with ricotta and parsley

That’s it, ya fill me? 

Cannelloni vs Manicotti vs Lasagne

You may be able to find cannelloni shells in specialty stores or online, but I’ve yet to come across them in my travels. Another common pasta option for cannelloni is manicotti, the tube-looking pasta shells. 

This cannelloni recipe, however, calls for oven-ready lasagne sheets. I went this route because I wanted something quick cooking, and I didn’t want to use a piping bag or try to spoon the filling into manicotti shells.

using lasagna sheets for cannelloni

Instead, all you have to do is soak the lasagne sheets in water while you cook the filling, put the filling in, and roll like little Italian enchiladas.

Important: Put the entire box of lasagne sheets in the water so you have 1-2 to test pliability before rolling. If they’re not softened enough, they’ll break instead of roll. You can speed up the softening process by placing the sheets in boiling water for a few minutes or microwaving covered in water for 5-6 minutes.

Why cut the lasagne sheets in half?

The recipe calls for cutting the softened lasagne sheets in half. This makes them easier to roll, serve, and leaves room for sauce penetration in the center. 

lasagne sheets filled for cannelloni

It can also be difficult to fit them all in the baking dish. I tested a batch and had to get creative around the edges and really jam the last 2-3 in. 

Can I use a different pasta?

If you use something like manicotti, I’d boil them for a few minutes before filling and baking. You can go in without boiling at all but be sure the pasta is fully covered in the marinara and sauce mixture. You’ll need to extend the bake time to maybe 50-60 minutes and cover with foil for all but the last 10-15 minutes. 

Side note: A low carb alternative might be the Palmini Lasagna Sheets that I used in my low carb lasagna recipe. I think they’re too thin to roll from their longer sides, so you’ll have to go top to bottom. This will make short rolls, and you may need two cans to use all the filling. 

palmini lasagna sheets for cannelloni

Baking the Cannelloni

It’s smooth sailing from here on. Simply fill in the gaps with marinara, followed by alfredo, and topped with shredded parmesan. You can top the cheese layer with some freshly cracked black pepper and crushed red pepper. 

Note: If you wanted to skip the light alfredo from a jar, you could make your own cheese sauce like the gouda sauce in my breakfast enchiladas recipe. You could stick with the gouda or incorporate some mozzarella or fontina. 

how to roll cannelloni before baking

Final Cannelloni Recipe Notes

Don’t be intimidated by all the recipe notes and potential tweaks. I just like to cover as many questions in advance as possible. It’s really as simple as cooking some beef, rolling it in some softened lasagna sheets, smothering in marinara and cheese, and baking! 

If you have a question about this cannelloni recipe I missed, leave a comment below or join my Facebook group with 10,000 other healthy home cooks that would love to help you out! 

ricotta and beef cannelloni on a white plate

Beef and Ricotta Cannelloni

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

This low fat cannelloni recipe stuffs oven ready lasagna sheets with a ground beef and ricotta mixture before baking everything in a dish of marinara, alfredo sauce, and parmesan cheese.

Ingredients

For the Cannelloni Filling

  • 1 lb Ground Beef, I used 96/4
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 4 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt and Black Pepper, to taste
  • 1 C (248g) Low Fat Ricotta
  • 1 Tbsp Chopped Parsley

For the Shells and Sauce

  • 12 sheets Oven Ready Lasagne , I used Barilla
  • 24 oz jar Marinara
  • 1 C (240g) Light Alfredo Sauce, I used Classico
  • 1/2 C (56g) Shredded Parmesan

Instructions

  1. Before you do any other prep, fill a 13x9 baking dish with water and submerge the lasagne sheets in the water to soften.*
  2. Preheat oven to 350F.

Cooking the Cannelloni Filling

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with nonstick cooking spray. Add the onion, garlic, beef, salt, and pepper. Cook until no pink remains and the beef is cooked through.
  2. Remove from the heat to briefly cool before stirring in the ricotta and parsley.

Filling the Cannelloni

  1. Once the lasagne sheets have softened (about 15-20 minutes in the water), transfer them to a flat surface and cut them in half.**
  2. Drain the water from the baking dish and place about half the marinara in the bottom of the dish.
  3. Fill each half of the lasagne sheet with the beef mixture and tightly roll. Place them, sealed-side-down in the dish on top of the marinara. Repeat until you have 24.
  4. Add the remaining marinara around the edges and in the center gaps. Followed by the alfredo sauce and parmesan cheese on top. Bake for 25-35 minutes. (If the cheese browns too quickly, cover with foil until the pasta is tender.)

Notes

*You can also boil the sheets for a few minutes or place in a large bowl of water and microwave for 5-6 minutes to soften.

**You can leave the lasagne sheets whole, but I like cutting them for several reasons. They are easier to roll and serve, and the sauce bakes in between the two halves when cut. 

This cannelloni would be great paired with my air fryer cheesy bread or garlic parmesan bread twists.

  • Each serving has 8 Smart Points (blue plan).
  • If you have questions about using different types of pasta, non-oven-ready lasagna, or other ingredient substitutions, check the post above. 

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 24 Cannelloni Serving Size: 3 Cannelloni
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 280Total Fat: 8gCarbohydrates: 30gProtein: 24g

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More Healthy Pasta Recipes You Might Like

Beef and ricotta stuffed lasagna rolls smothered in a blend of marina, alfredo sauce, and parmesan cheese. Each extra cheesy, beefy serving has 23 grams of filling protein with just 280 calories and 8 grams of fat! 



29 thoughts on “Low Fat Ricotta and Beef Cannelloni”

    • One of my favorites so far! It was moderately time consuming only due to wrapping the cannelloni but well worth it. It was so tasty I couldnt believe I made it. Restaurant quality recipe! I used ground sirloin because it is what we had but was still very tasty!

  • SO glad you posted this on your story on instagram and that I followed the link! I thought this was another palmini pasta recipe (I tried it- just can’t get behind it). Literally so excited to try this with the Barilla lasagne sheets!

  • This recipe is the real deal, glad I bought a big size ricotta and extra box of pasta to make it twice in one week 🤦🏼‍♀️ even my picky toddler loved it! I light try making it as a lasagna next time instead of cannelloni since it can be hard to see where each roll starts/ stops once cooked with all the sauce. I also extra extra cheese on top because why not!

  • Okay, really obsessed with this one. When I meal prep on Sunday’s I make the beef filling ahead of time which makes the recipe come together super quickly for dinner.

  • I love love love this recipe. I also added a good amount of oregano and basil to the meet/cheese mixture. Everyone at work has asked me for this recipe!

  • Made this for my boyfriend and his friend! I don’t like ricotta cheese so I just used shredded mozzarella and sprinkled it on the meat before I rolled each one up. Turned out perfect and delicious!

  • This is one of my top 5 favorite recipes. I sometimes use turkey sausage crumbles instead of ground beef. And I’ve used nonfat or low-fat cottage cheese in place of ricotta cheese sometimes. It freezes and reheats really well.

  • AMAZING!!! This recipe does take a little extra time and patience with the “noodles” and rolling but I think I’ll be a pro in no time. I chose to omit the onions but the recipe did not disappoint. Even my husband who has avoided ricotta cheese the whole 12 years we’ve been together LOVED It! I am looking forward to having this for lunch all week 🙂

  • So delicious! Wish I’d doubled the recipe. I can’t believe it’s “kinda healthy” and my husband says it’s the best thing I’ve ever made. Love when a recipe fits my macros, is delicious, I don’t have to modify or make something else carby and fatty to go with it for the kids and husband.

  • So even though I spaced out and didn’t follow the directions these delicious! (I dumped the jar of marinara in the beef mixture then tried scooping half out and then realized I wasn’t supposed to put any in there 🤦🏻‍♀️)

  • Loved this recipe!! Pasta is my favorite so I love being able to have options with good macros and amazing taste! I didn’t have any Alfredo on hand so I left that out of the recipe. This one is definitely in my rotation!

  • This was so good! Not at all labor intensive yet looks like you put in a lot of effort. I tried soaking the noodles, but ended up having to boil them a little in the microwave. No big deal, but will just do that first next time. I cut them in half width wise (doh!) still worked. Pretty sure these are going to make a family debut at Christina’s.

  • Made this recipe once exactly as the instructions say and loved it and only wished i could’ve fit more of them into my macros. The second time I made it I did it with Palmini lasagna noodles and decided to just layer it instead of roll because I didn’t want the fuss of rolling so it because a bit more like a sandwich. If you go this route watch the baking time so you don’t end up with crispy noodles!

  • I made this recipe and accidentally doubled the amount of beef. The recipe still made a delicious meal and I can’t wait to make it when I’m paying attention to the number.

  • This recipe has been added to my weekly rotation it’s so good! The first time I made it I accidentally mixed together the Alfredo and the marinara and placed it all on top, creating a slightly weird pink sauce, but it still was delicious. The little tweaks I make now Are just adding some spinach and mushrooms to the filling for some more veggies.

    • The serving sizes would be the same. If you mean nutrition facts, you could subtract the nutrition info from the lasagna sheets called for and add the nutrition info from the Palmini.

  • I made this last week for dinner meal prep and it is SOOO tasty. Definitely more work than I usually do for weekly meal prepping, as rolling each one was kind of tedious, but WORTH IT. (I actually found that rolling it whole then cutting it in half was easier for me and less time consuming, rather than cutting the lasagna before rolling). My husband also loved it, and he can by a picky “healthy food” eater. He said he felt like it was a cheat meal it tasted so good. We served ours over zoodles with some extra marinana and parm to add a low calorie vegetable side.

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