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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.

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

This is a simple 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?

If you wanted to take things to the next level, you could swap this mixture for something like my Instant Pot bolognese or best turkey bolognese. I would still add the ricotta for binding.

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!

That said, there are other ways to make this dish happen. If you wanted to skip the rolling, I’ve found you can just simmer pasta in a meat sauce and top with a ricotta cheese mixture and shredded mozzarella before broiling to get a crispy cheese crust. Check out my healthy lasagna casserole for an example.

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.


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


  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.)


*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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Liz McC

Wednesday 13th of September 2023

This is delicious but I found rolling the lasagna sheets SO fiddly and frustrating. Mine kept cracking or pulling apart or breaking, and it wasn’t because they weren’t soft enough to roll. The rest of this recipe is excellent though and I’ll just use another pasta to make a casserole next time.


Monday 20th of March 2023

So delicious!!! Not difficult to make and very satisfying!

Robin Polk

Tuesday 13th of April 2021

This might be my all time favorite food. I use Kite Hill dairy free ricotta! Trader Joe's tomato basil pasta sauce is also our favorite for this recipe. We recently tried to make it using the Barilla Gluten Free oven ready lasagna sheets, and they did not soften like the regular sheets do. No problem - we made it into lasagna and it was still delish! Next time we'll just stick to the regular sheets so we can have the rolled up goodness.

Mason Woodruff

Wednesday 14th of April 2021

Good to know on the Barilla lasagna sheets. Thanks for the tip!

Megan K

Monday 18th of January 2021

We made this tonight and loved it. We had an over abundance of the non-oven ready noodles so I used those- just cooked them per the instructions on the box then proceeded with the recipe. My Walmart has quit carrying low-fat ricotta so I used low fat cottage cheese in its place. It was good, but I think I’ll take on the full fat ricotta next time just to compare. I also added some of the Trader Joe’s garlic salt to the meat mixture because I’m obsessed with that stuff, and it just takes it up a notch. I’ll look forward to the left overs the next few days!

Mason Woodruff

Thursday 21st of January 2021

Thanks for the substitution notes and ideas! Glad you enjoyed this one. It's one of my personal favorites.


Saturday 16th of January 2021

It’s just my hubby and I. Can I freeze this? Would you recommend freezing a portion before or after it’s cooked? Thanks!

Mason Woodruff

Sunday 17th of January 2021

This should freeze really well. I'd freeze after it's cooked.

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