Manicotti and cannelloni are luscious rolls of pasta wrapped around cheese, meat, and vegetables. Both are easily assembled using paper-thin squares or rectangles of fresh dough or dried pasta tubes. The two are essentially the same dish with one difference: Manicotti is rolled on the diagonal, while cannelloni is rolled straight across. As seems to be true with all Italian pasta, even such a slight variation is inspiration for an entirely new name.
Both fresh pasta squares or rectangles and dried pasta tubes must be cooked in boiling water until just al dente. Donít overcook or overstuff dried pasta tubes, or they will burst as they expand during baking. For a more attractive shape, always roll cooked fresh pasta in a tight bundle around the filling.
Chicken-filled Classic Cannelloni (see our recipe) is topped with side-by-side tomato and cheese sauces. Broiled Spinach Cannelloni (see recipe) is quickly browned under the broiler and covered with a lemony cream sauce. Manicotti with Roasted Vegetables (see recipe) is baked with fresh tomato sauce and a topping of garlic-infused vegetables.
Cutting Pasta Sheets
Roll pasta into a thin sheet. Cut the sheet of dough into squares or rectangles, as directed in the recipe. Use a pizza cutter, a fluted pastry wheel, or a sharp knife.
Cook the pasta squares or rectangles until al dente. Drain and place on a kitchen towel. Spoon the filling along one edge of each cooked pasta piece. Roll the dough tightly around the filling.
Filling Dried Manicotti
Cook the shells until al dente. Drain and place on a kitchen towel. With a small spoon, carefully insert about 1/3 cup of filling into each shell; do not pack filling.
Filling Fresh Manicotti
Cook the pasta rectangles until al dente. Drain and place on a kitchen towel. Place the rectangle with one corner toward you. Spoon about 1/3 cup filling diagonally across and just below the center of the rectangle. Beginning at the bottom corner, roll the dough around the filling.