Vegetarian spinach cannelloni with porcini mushroom cream

vegetarian cannelloni with spinach and mushrooms

Hello my friends,

how have you been? I cooked too much during the holidays and, of course, I made myself quite tired. It was all worth it though. I so enjoyed the company of family and of the lovely friends who have visited from near and far. After at least a week of eating leftovers, I felt energized again and inspired to continue to create more delicious ways to include vegetables in my recipes.

Please meet the vegetarian cannelloni. This is a surprisingly light and delightful dish. It will also be appealing to meat-lovers thanks to the added umami from the porcini mushrooms. You can make a gluten-free version using crêpes instead of pasta sheets.

The recipe expands on my method of filing fresh lasagna sheets with a layer of creamy cheese and vegetables. Using very thin lasagna sheets soaked in salted water assures the best results in terms of flavor and texture.

how to make vegetarian cannelloniIn this case the soaked lasagna sheets are cut in a half, rolled up and topped with a striped drizzle of two sauces, a porcini mushroom flavored béchamel and a simple tomato sauce.

This is a dish that requires a little more time than the lasagna, as it involves soaking and cooking the mushrooms and making the béchamel. Should you be short on time, you could just use one of the two sauces and a sprinkle of Parmigiano. It will still taste fantastic and look very special.


250 g (9 oz) fresh lasagna sheets (9 oz; mine are 22×18 cm -7×5 inches).

For the cannelloni filling:

  • 600 gr (1 1/2 lb, uncooked weight) blanched or steamed spinach or Swiss chard, excess moisture removed by squeezing, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 250 gr (1/2 lb) whole milk ricotta
  • 250 g (1/2 lb) fresh mozzarella
  • 4-6 tablespoon grated Parmigiano or Pecorino

For the béchamel:

  • 250 ml (1 cup) full fat milk
  • 30 g (1 oz) butter
  • 30 g (1 oz) corn starch

For the tomato sauce

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 400 g (14 oz) canned crushed tomatoes
  • a handful of basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano

For the porcini mushrooms

  • a handful of dried porcini mushrooms (about 10 g, 1/3 oz)
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
  • white wine

To make the filling:

  1. Heat the garlic briefly in a shallow pan with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and the fennel seeds. Add the cooked spinach, salt lightly and warm through to infuse with the garlicky oil. Transfer to a food processor together with the ricotta. Process briefly until smooth.
  2. Slice the mozzarella and cut it into potato chip-like pieces.
  3. To soak the pasta sheets, boil 4–6 cups of water with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Pour in a shallow bowl, which must be larger than your lasagna sheets. Using a slotted spoon, deep one or two lasagna sheets at a time in the hot water until just soft, approx. 20 sec, strain, then place in one single layer on your work top. Cut each sheet in two as shown in the photos.

make fresh manicotti vegetarian

Assemble the cannelloni:

Using a silicon spatula, spread the ricotta spinach mixture over the pasta sheets. Place the mozzarella pieces on the diagonal of the pasta sheets and sprinkle with Parmigiano. Roll tightly along the diagonal.

To cook the porcini mushrooms:

Soak the porcini mushrooms in 1/2 cup water until soft, about 15 minutes. Heat 1 finely minced clove of garlic in 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and add the porcini with their liquid. Add two tablespoons of white wine, cover, and poach the mushrooms over low heat until soft and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

cook dried porcini mushrooms

Make the porcini mushrooms cream:

The porcini cream is a béchamel blended with the cooked porcini:

I make the white sauce in the microwave using glass measuring jugs.

1. Heat the milk until near boiling point, about 2 min. In a different jug, melt the butter, whisk in the corn starch to create a roux. While whisking, add the hot milk, first one tablespoon at the time until smooth and then all the rest.

2. Transfer the mixture to the microwave and heat for one minute. Quickly stir, then microwave for one more minute, or until the mixture is almost at boiling point. Whisk again. At this point, the sauce should be thick and smooth. Let it cool for a few minutes.

3. Add the porcini mushrooms without their liquid to the béchamel and blend in the food processor. If the mixture is quite firm, use part of the cooking liquid to make the béchamel spreadable. Don’t discard the delicious cooking liquid. If you don’t need it for the béchamel, reduce it to a syrup and drizzle on the cannelloni.

Make a tomato sauce:

Heat the onion, very finely chopped, in a shallow pan with one tablespoon of olive oil. Add the crushed tomato and basil leaves. Cover and cook 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Season with a pinch of salt a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper.


Preheat oven to 200 °C (392 °F).

Spread the bottom of an oven pan with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Place the cannelloni over the sauce layer and drizzle with additional tomato sauce.

vegetarian fresh manicotti with spinach recipeI like to drizzle the sauces in a striped pattern, but you can omit this step and just layer the béchamel on top of the tomato sauce.

cannelloni with porcini cream

Drizzle with the porcini cream and sprinkle with Parmigiano.

Bake until slightly golden on top, plate, drizzle lightly with your best olive oil, serve immediately.

Makes 18 cannelloni. Serves 4-6.

NB: Don’t spread the cannelloni out in a large pan, or they will dry out while cooking. I often cook for two, that’s why there is space around the cannelloni but not between the cannelloni. If you make the full recipe, your cannelloni will fit snugly in a 32×22 cm (approximately 12.5×8.5 inches).