Basil and Ricotta Cannelloni

Prep Time:
45 mins
Total Time:
1 hr 5 mins

In Rome, fresh ricotta made from sheep's milk is more widely available than that made from cow's milk, but either will work in this recipe. An abundance of zucchini blossoms (fiori di zucche) made it easy for Kovel to use them as a topping, but if you can't find them, it's not a problem; they are an optional flourish here.


  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for baking sheet and drizzling

  • 18 sheets (3 ½ by 5 inches each) fresh egg pasta

  • Unsalted butter, room temperature, for dish

  • 1 large spring onion, roots trimmed and halved lengthwise through bulb and greens, or 4 whole scallions

  • 1 ½ cups packed fresh basil leaves

  • 24 ounces fresh whole-milk ricotta, drained (3 cups)

  • 3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten

  • ¾ teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest

  • ¾ cup finely grated Pecorino Romano (from one 3-ounce piece)

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • 9 zucchini blossoms (optional), stems and stamens removed


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with oil. Working in three batches, drop pasta into boiling water, stirring to ensure it doesn't stick. Cook until pliable but still retaining some chew, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or mesh spider, transfer, one at a time, to oiled pan and lay flat, turning to lightly coat. Drizzle with additional oil as necessary to prevent sticking.

  2. Return water to a boil; add onion and cook until bulb is tender and greens are still bright, about 4 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to a colander. Add basil to boiling water and cook just until bright, 30 seconds; drain and transfer to colander with onion, reserving 1/4 cup blanching water. Firmly press onion and basil to remove as much liquid as possible; transfer to a cutting board and finely chop. Place in a medium bowl and stir in ricotta, yolks, lemon zest, half of the Pecorino Romano, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt; season with pepper. Stir thoroughly to combine. (Filling can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container.)

  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a broilerproof 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Lay a square of pasta on a clean work surface; spoon 3 tablespoons ricotta mixture in a line about 1 inch away from and parallel to a short edge. Roll pasta up to enclose filling, making a tube about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Repeat with remaining pasta squares and filling. Place cannelloni snugly in buttered baking dish, in a single layer of three rows of six. Stir reserved blanching water into cream, lightly season with salt and pepper, and spoon over cannelloni. Carefully tear zucchini blossoms in half lengthwise and drape a half-blossom over each cannellono. Sprinkle remaining Pecorino Romano over pasta to cover; lightly drizzle with oil. Bake, uncovered, until cannelloni are bubbling and hot in centers, about 15 minutes. Turn oven to broiler setting; broil until golden brown on top, about 5 minutes more. Let cool slightly before serving.

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