Manicotti

November 3, 2022

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Cheese stuffed Manicotti! Tender manicotti shells are filled with an herby ricotta cheese filling, then topped with a vibrant and garlicky tomato marinara, and to finish they’re oven baked until perfectly melty and delicious!

Homemade manicotti stuffed with cheese in a baking dish with marinara sauce.

Homemade Manicotti

Manicotti is an Italian dish similar in flavor to cheese stuffed shells or lasagna.

Large tube pasta are boiled until al dente then a filling of ricotta, mozzarella and sometimes spinach is stuffed inside. Usually it’s meatless but it can include ground beef, pork, or veal as well.

The filled manicotti shells are layered into a baking dish and covered with marinara sauce. Sometimes you’ll see them finished with more cheese over the top, but believe it or not, I think with the super cheesy filling alone it’s plenty without.

This mostly from scratch dish is total comfort food!

This recipe has been a family favorite for nearly 20 years! I began making these as a teen and haven’t stopped since.

Try them and you’ll see why, so much cheesy, tomatoey deliciousness in every bite!

Ingredients needed to make manicotti.

Manicotti Recipe Ingredients

  • Dry manicotti noodles
  • Ricotta Cheese, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese
  • Eggs
  • Fresh parsley and fresh basil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Canned crushed tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Ingredient Tips

  • Use fresh grated cheeses for best results (the mozzarella and parmesan).
  • I have used dried herbs for this recipe in the past. They work in a pinch but fresh herbs will give superior flavor.
  • Every brand of crushed tomatoes has a various consistency. My go-to for this recipe has always been Contadina brand crushed roma tomatoes. It isn’t very thick and it has great flavor.
  • Only cook manicotti to al dente, they’ll continue to cook in the oven and you don’t want them too soft.
  • To keep manicotti pasta from sticking to each other after draining you can spread them out onto parchment paper.

Group of photos showing steps of making marinara in sauce pan and ricotta cheese filling for manicotti.

How to Make Manicotti Filling and Marinara Sauce

For the marinara:

  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic and saute about 20 seconds until lightly golden.
  3. Stir in crushed tomatoes and basil and let simmer, partially covered with lid while preparing pasta and filling, about 15 minutes.
  4. Note you’ll want to stir well before pouring over pasta.

For the manicotti:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to directions listed on package to al dente and drain.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, using a fork blend together ricotta cheese, eggs, parsley, a little salt and pepper.
  3. Stir in grated mozzarella and parmesan cheese and mix until well blended.

How to Stuff and Bake Manicotti

  1. You can either stuff the 14 manicotti shells by hand just scooping cheese mixture into shells while holding one hand over bottom opening to keep it from following out the opposite side. Stuff until it’s completely full.
  2. Or stuff by using a piping bag. To do so, scoop cheese filling into a large piping bag (I work with half the cheese filling at a time so the bag isn’t too full) and pipe into shells. Again cover that bottom opening so cheese doesn’t fall out.

Photo collage showing how to stuff manicotti then assemble with sauce in baking dish and bake.

To Assemble in Baking Dish and Bake

  1. Spread 1 1/2 cups sauce in bottom of two 11 by 7-inch baking dishes, or you can use one 13 by 9-inch baking dish and spread with 2 1/2 cups sauce.
  2. Align stuffed manicotti over marinara layer in a single layer in the two baking dishes (or the single 13 by 9-inch dish), then pour marinara sauce evenly over filled manicotti noodles (you can either cover pasta entirely, or just cover with a row of sauce down the center – then reserve remaining sauce for another use).
  3. Cover with foil and bake in preheated oven until cooked through, about 35 to 40 minutes, or until cheese has melted through to center. Serve warm.

Close up photo of Italian stuffed manicotti pasta.

Freezing Manicotti

  • Manicotti can be frozen before or after baking.
  • You can freeze in the baking dish just wrap tightly with foil and freeze up to 2 months.
  • If freezing before baking I like to cover entirely with sauce.
  • Thaw overnight in the fridge before baking.
  • Increase bake time by about 10 minutes since baking cold from fridge.

Possible Variations

  • Store-bought sauce: For a shortcut you could use bottled marinara sauce. Use about 1 1/2 jars. I would recommend adding a few Tbsp fresh basil to it though for more flavor.
  • Spicy: Add 1 tsp red pepper flakes to the sauce if you want some heat.
  • Meat option: Add 1 lb ground beef, cooked, to the sauce (only use 1 can tomatoes).

Manicotti shown from overhead in an 11 by 7 inch white rectangular baking dish.

What to Serve with Manicotti

More Tempting Italian Recipes to Try

Homemade manicotti stuffed with cheese in a baking dish with marinara sauce.
5 from 1 vote

Manicotti

This has been one of my go-to recipes for years! Manicotti noodles are brimming with cheese and smothered with a simple homemade marinara sauce. A classic Italian dinner you need to try!
Servings: 7 (2 per person)
Prep20 minutes
Cook1 hour 5 minutes
Ready in: 1 hour 25 minutes

Ingredients

Manicotti

  • 1 (8 oz.) pkg. Manicotti noodles
  • 2 1/2 cups (21 oz.) Ricotta cheese (skim or whole)
  • 2 3/4 cups (11 oz.) shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cup (3 oz.) fine grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (or 1 Tbsp dried)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Marinara Sauce

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (28 oz. each) cans crushed Roma tomatoes,*
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil, or (1 Tbsp dried)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Marinara Sauce

  • Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saute about 20 seconds until lightly golden.
  • Stir in crushed tomatoes and basil and let simmer, partially covered with lid while preparing pasta and filling, about 15 minutes.

Manicotti

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to directions listed on package to al dente and drain.
  • Meanwhile prepare Manicotti filling: In a large mixing bowl, using a fork blend together ricotta cheese, eggs, parsley, a little salt and pepper. 
  • Stir in grated mozzarella and parmesan cheese and mix until well blended. 
  • Divide cheese mixture evenly among the 14 manicotti noodles stuffing each one full (you can do this using a large piping bag, or stuff by hand while hold one hand over the bottom opening of the manicotti noodle and fill each full).
  • Spread 1 1/2 cups sauce in bottom of two 11 by 7-inch baking dishes, or you can use one 13 by 9-inch baking dish and spread with 2 1/2 cups sauce.
  • Align stuffed manicotti over marinara layer in a single layer in the two baking dishes (or the single 13 by 9-inch dish).
  • Pour marinara sauce evenly over filled manicotti noodles (you can either cover pasta entirely, or just cover with a row of sauce down the center - then reserve remaining sauce for another use).
  • Cover with foil and bake in preheated oven until cooked through, about 35 to 40 minutes, or until cheese has melted through to center. Serve warm.

Notes

  • Note that each brand of crushed tomatoes varies quite a bit in thickness. I like Contadina brand here because it's thinner so it thickens as it simmers. If you start with one that's too thick you may need to add some water so it's not thick and pasty.
Nutrition Facts
Manicotti
Amount Per Serving
Calories 545 Calories from Fat 270
% Daily Value*
Fat 30g46%
Saturated Fat 14g88%
Trans Fat 0.004g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 12g
Cholesterol 117mg39%
Sodium 751mg33%
Potassium 594mg17%
Carbohydrates 39g13%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 7g8%
Protein 32g64%
Vitamin A 1240IU25%
Vitamin C 13mg16%
Calcium 660mg66%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.