Tasty & Easy Manicotti Recipe

Tasty & Easy Manicotti Recipe

Tasty & Easy Manicotti Recipe

Manicotti literally, “little sleeve”, is an Italian American form of pasta. Manicotti are very large pasta tubes, usually ridged, that are intended to be stuffed and baked.

The filling is generally ricotta cheese mixed with cooked chopped spinach, and possibly ground meat such as veal.

They are subsequently topped with béchamel sauce, usually made with Pecorino Romano cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, tomato sauce, or some combination of these.

Similar to the Italian cannelloni, manicoti can be extruded in tube form or rolled from sheets of dough.

The traditional version of the manicoti recipe uses a crêpe instead of pasta tubes to contain the filling, which is similarly covered in sauce and baked.


So, with all this Manicoti talk, what exactly is Manicoti?  Manicoti is a popular Italian-American dish inspired by Italian cannelloni. It appropriately means “little sleeve” in Italian. 

It is made with large, tubular pasta shells (sleeves) that are boiled until al dente, cooled then stuffed with various fillings, usually ricotta mixed with mozzarella, ground beef, Italian sausage, and/or spinach.

The stuffed manicotti shells are lined in a baking dish and either marinara or bechamel sauce is poured over top. The Manicotti is then covered and baked to bubbly deliciousness.

What’s the Difference Between Cannelloni And Manicotti?

Both Manicotti and Cannelloni are stuffed pasta shells covered in sauce and baked.  What sets the two apart is the actual pasta used in constructing the dish.

Cannelloni (which loosely translates to “big reeds” or “big tubes”), uses either fresh crepes or pasta sheets, like lasagna noodles, that you stuff then roll into a tube.  Homemade Manicotti, on the other hand, uses dried, pre-made pasta tubes specifically called “manicotti,” rather than cannelloni pasta sheets.

Cannelloni (which loosely translates to “big reeds” or “big tubes”), uses either fresh crepes or pasta sheets, like lasagna noodles, that you stuff then roll into a tube.  Homemade Manicotti, on the other hand, uses dried, pre-made pasta tubes specifically called “manicotti,” rather than cannelloni pasta sheets.

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About Stuffed MANICOTTI

This easy Manicotti Recipe is one of the best I’ve ever devoured – restaurant or homemade.  Here are a few reasons that set it apart:

  • Soaked Classic Noodles. There is no need to settle for no-boil manicotti shells or boil your manicoti shells.  Instead, the shells soften just in hot tap making them WAY easier to stuff
  • Marinara Sauce.  For the ultimate Manicoti, you need to smother it in the ultimate sauce.  It takes a few extra minutes to make marinara from scratch but is SO worth it AND most of the time is just simmering.
  • Beef, Sausage & Cheese. My favorite combination is of multiple kinds of cheese, beef and sausage. The combination of beef and Italian sausage is sublime and adds the ideal texture so you don’t feel like you’re just taking a big bite of oozing cheese.  Although, I’m not entirely opposed to that. 
  • Depth of Flavor. The use of 3 cheeses, both beef and Italian sausage as well as plenty of seasoning in both the filling and the marinara add a depth of flavor that cannot be achieved any other way
  • No Grainy Ricotta! Instead of using all ricotta, we combine ricotta with sour cream for the creamiest ricotta you ever did taste.  This will make a ricotta lover out of you!

What Is MANICOTTI Filling Made Of?

In this Stuffed Manicotti recipe, we use ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, beef, Italian sausage, eggs, herbs, and sour cream.

Do You Have To Cook The MANICOTTI Before Stuffing It?

Manicoti shells are traditionally boiled until al dente, cooled before filling, covered in sauce, and baked. Boiling the shells not only produces one more step, but if your noodles are overcooked, they become flimsy, tear easily, and super hard to fill.

In this easy Manicoti recipe, you don’t have to bake the shells before filling them. Instead, I use the easy trick I use for my lasagna noodles and let them soak in hot tap water while you prep the rest of the ingredients.

The noodles soften slightly but still retain their shape so they are super easy to work with. The Manicoti shells will finish cooking in the oven for the perfect texture every time – no flimsy, tearing manicoti shells!

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1 (8-oz.) package manicotti
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
2 1/2 c. ricotta cheese
1 c. shredded mozzarella
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 c. freshly chopped basil, plus more for garnish
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 375°. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook manicotti until al dente, 5 minutes. Drain.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion and cook until soft, 6 minutes. Add garlic and tomato paste and cook 2 minutes more, until garlic is fragrant and tomato paste has darkened in color.
  3. Add crushed tomatoes (with juices) and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, make ricotta filling: in a large bowl, stir together ricotta, 1/2 cup mozzarella, 1/4 cup Parmesan, basil, and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Into the bottom of a large baking dish, ladle a couple scoops of sauce. Smooth into an even layer. Spoon ricotta mixture into prepared manicotti and place side by side into baking dish, repeating until all ricotta mixture has been used. Top with remaining tomato sauce, mozzarella, and Parmesan. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Garnish with basil and serve immediately.

How Do You Reheat MANICOTTI?

  • Full Casserole:  cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake at 350° F for approximately 20 minutes or until heated through.
  • Microwave:  Add individual servings to a microwave-safe plate and cover with a paper towel so the sauce doesn’t splatter.  Microwave 1 ½-2 minutes or until heated through.

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Can You Freeze Uncooked MANICOTTI?

Yes! You can freeze uncooked or cooked Manicoti.  Freezing homemade Manicoti is a great way to enjoy a bake-and-eat dinner any night of the week without any prep!  For best results, I recommend freezing uncooked Manicoti, but both methods will work.

What is cheese manicotti?

Baked Manicoti Recipe Stuffed with Ricotta & Mozzarella Cheese. Enjoy this classic Manicoti recipe at festive gatherings, big family dinners, or any time you have the craving for a cheesy, baked pasta meal.

This three cheese manicoti recipe includes Ricotta, Mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses.

What’s the difference between manicotti and stuffed shells?

Unlike the tubes of manicoti, the shells can hold an amount of stuffing equal to the size and shape of an egg. A cream or cheese sauce can coat these shells, as well as the meat, tomato, and vegetable sauces that also work well with manicoti.


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