This classic cheese manicotti recipe is rich and flavorful, and always a crowd-pleaser too! It’s simple to put together and perfect for making in advance.
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If you love stuffed shells, baked rigatoni, and other cheesy baked pasta dishes, then meet your new favorite weeknight dinner: manicotti! While manicotti is an Italian restaurant staple, it’s also incredibly easy to make at home, and it’s versatile enough that it works just as well for a weeknight as it does for a holiday dinner.
Manicotti is a type of Italian pasta that is typically filled with a cheesy ricotta mixture, and then baked in tomato sauce with plenty of melty mozzarella on top. This dish is usually served as a main course, and it makes for a delicious and hearty meal that your whole family will love. (Yes, even picky eaters!)
Cheese Manicotti Recipe
Although the list of ingredients is simple, manicotti is packed with flavor. The combination of seasoned ricotta cheese, marinara, and mozzarella is absolutely irresistible. (Make sure you use a high-quality marinara sauce—it makes all the difference!)
Plus, manicotti a dish that can be made in advance, which is always a bonus. You can simply make the filling ahead of time, or just go ahead and assemble everything so it’s ready to pop in the oven. If you know someone who’s sick or you’re making some freezer meals for a mom-to-be, this manicotti recipe will be your go-to!
This recipe can be easily doubled or tripled if you’re feeding a large crowd, too. Simply double or triple all of the ingredients, and bake the manicotti in a larger baking dish if you have one, or multiple baking dishes if you don’t.
See recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Manicotti noodles
- Ricotta cheese – Use whole milk ricotta for the richest filling.
- Garlic powder
- Egg – Here’s the best way to crack an egg!
- Parmesan cheese
- Marinara sauce – I like to splurge for Rao’s because I find it tastes the best.
- Shredded mozzarella cheese – An Italian blend works, too.
- Kosher salt & black pepper
As written, you have a classic, can’t-go-wrong manicotti recipe. But if you want to switch things up, break with tradition and try one of the following ideas:
- Add chopped frozen spinach to the ricotta filling to up the veggies in this recipe.
- Or, stir in thinly sliced basil leaves. For even more basil flavor, add pesto to the filling.
- Make it meaty by using a meat sauce instead of marinara, or cook crumbled Italian sausage or ground beef in a skillet and add it to the marinara
Cooking the shells to al dente is important. First, it will help keep them from tearing while cooking. It also keeps your manicotti from being too soft when the dish is finished, since the pasta will continue cooking while in the oven.
How to Make Manicotti
- Prepare: Preheat your oven to 350ºF and lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray or oil.
- Make the Manicotti Shells: In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the manicotti according to the instructions until al dente. Drain in a colander and rinse the shells with cold water. Toss them with a little olive oil to keep them from sticking together.
- Make the Filling: Stir together the ricotta, parsley, garlic powder, egg, and parmesan in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
- Assemble: Spoon half of the marinara sauce onto the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Pipe the cheese mixture into each manicotti shell and place them into the dish. Pour the remaining sauce over top of the pasta, followed by the shredded mozzarella.
- Bake: Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 35 minutes.
Use a pastry bag to pipe the filling into the shells, or a zip-top bag with the corner snipped off if you don’t have a pastry bag.
How to Store Leftover Manicotti
Leftover manicotti can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days; transfer leftovers to an airtight storage container or cover the baking dish with foil. Simply reheat in the microwave or a 350ºF oven when you’re ready to eat.
With all that cheese, manicotti is quite filling on its own! I like serving it with homemade garlic bread and a simple side salad. Other vegetable sides that go well with manicotti are roasted broccoli, roasted asparagus, and air fryer Brussels sprouts.
Cannelloni and manicotti are very similar, with the main difference being the shape of the pasta. Both types of pasta are long tubes that are meant to be filled and then baked. However, cannelloni are slightly larger in size and have smooth sides, while manicotti have ridges on the outside.
Manicotti and stuffed shells are both Italian dishes that consist of pasta filled with a mixture, usually cheese, and then baked. The main difference is the shape of the pasta. Manicotti are long tubes, while stuffed shells are large shells. Stuffed shells also typically have a little bit more filling than manicotti.
I find the easiest way to stuff manicotti shells is to use a large piping bag or a ziplock bag with the corner snipped off. Simply fill the bag with your filling mixture and then pipe it into each shell. You can also use a spoon, but it might be a little more messy.
Yes, manicotti can be frozen! Simply place the manicotti in a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. This can be either before or after baking! When you’re ready to eat, thaw overnight in the fridge and then reheat in a 350ºF oven. If the manicotti was already baked, it can also be reheated in the microwave.
- 1 8-ounce box manicotti noodles
- 1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
- 3 tablespoons parsley finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- ½ cup parmesan cheese grated
- 1 24-ounce jar marinara sauce
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- Kosher salt & black pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish.
- In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the manicotti according to the instructions until al dente. Drain in a colander and cool under cold running water. Toss with a little olive oil to prevent them from sticking together. Set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, add the ricotta, parsley, garlic powder, egg, and parmesan. Stir with a spatula to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add half the marinara sauce to the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Pipe the cheese mixture into each manicotti shell and place into the baking dish. Repeat with all shells. Add the remaining sauce over top of the pasta. Sprinkle the top with mozzarella.
- Bake for 35 minutes or until hot throughout and the cheese is melted.