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Manicotti

This classic Manicotti recipe has a 4-cheese filling that can be made with or without meat, as well as spinach! It’s a great freezer meal and make-ahead recipe that your family will love.

Cheese filled manicotti in a white casserole dish with a spatula on the side.

Manicotti

When you’re in the mood for an Italian feast, there’s nothing more satisfying than a classic Manicotti dinner. (With a side of garlic bread, of course.) This recipe has an incredible 4-cheese filling that you just can’t beat.

Ricotta cheese is a must for manicotti, (cottage cheese can be used as a substitute in a pinch). Cream cheese ensures that the filling is incredibly creamy, (and not grainy). Parmesan and mozzarella cheese round it all out, along with the best combination of herbs and some garlic for enhanced flavor. And finally, whisked eggs, which binds the filling and adds more body/substance to it.

This is a great make-ahead and freezer meal as well, read on for everything you need to know, (including how to add meat or spinach to this)!

What is Manicotti

Manicotti translates to “little sleeves” in Italian, and consists of large tubes of pasta with ridges on the outside. They are designed to be filled and baked. The filling includes a ricotta cheese filling, and sometimes also includes spinach and/or ground meat.

How to Make It

See recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

Combine the filling ingredients (Ricotta, parmesan cheese, mozzarella, cream cheese, eggs, and seasonings) in a large bowl and set aside. Boil manicotti shells for 1 minute less than al dente. Drain and rinse with cool water.

A bowl of manicotti filling next to a colander with cooked manicotti shells.

Spread 1/2 of the marinara on the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish. Use a small spoon or piping bag to fill each manicotti noodle and transfer it to the casserole dish. Top with remaining marinara sauce.

Manicotti in a baking dish with sauce being added.

Top with mozzarella cheese. Cover and bake at 375° for 20 minutes. Remove cover and bake for 10 more minutes. If desired, broil at 425 for 1 minute, watch it carefully during this time. Garnish with parsley and serve with garlic bread with cheese.

Manicotti in a baking dish before and after being baked.

How to Fill Manicotti Shells

  • I like to position the manicotti noodle vertically and use a small spoon to fill it. I’ll give it a little shake to allow the filling to slide down into the shell, then I’ll continue to add more until it’s filled.
  • You can also fill it halfway, flip it, and fill the other half.
  • Instead of a spoon, you can also place the filling in a piping bag or a gallon freezer bag and cut the tip.

Adding Spinach

  • Fresh Spinach– Sauté up to 4 cups of fresh spinach in a little olive oil. (Consider chopping the spinach into smaller pieces.)  Let it cool and incorporate it into the cheese mixture.
  • Frozen Spinach– Thaw 16 oz. of spinach by running it under warm water. Squeeze out excess moisture and combine it with the cheese mixture.

Adding Meat

  • Option 1: Make this with my meat sauce recipe instead of regular marinara.
  • Option 2: Brown up to 1 pound of ground meat (beef, sausage, turkey, and/or veal), along with 1/2 cup diced onions, if desired. Let it cool and combine it with the cheese mixture. Note that this will give you more filling, so you may want to fill up more than the 10 shells that are included in this recipe. A 9 x 13 inch casserole dish can typically fit as many as 12 shells. 

Make Ahead Method

  • Assemble the dish as outlined, but do not bake. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day, then add 10-15 minutes to covered baking time.
  • Assemble, cover, and freeze for up to 3 months. Let it fully thaw in the fridge and add 10-15 minutes to covered baking time.

Pro Tips

  • Boil extra shells in case some break during the boiling or draining process.
  • Use a timer to ensure you don’t boil them too long, or they can fall apart/tear.
  • This is one case where I like to use jarred, finely minced garlic (instead of fresh cloves). This ensures they’re nice and fine, and the flavor is more subtle which blends into the filling nicely.
  • Low moisture whole milk mozzarella melts the best in this recipe, shred it from a block instead of using packaged shredded cheese. It will melt and taste much  better.
  • I use Dragone for the ricotta/mozzarella, BelGioioso for the Parmesan, and Philadelphia for the cream cheese. 
  • Rao’s is my go-to brand for marinara sauce, (it’s really good)!

Storage

  • Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

A white plate with manicotti on top with basil on the side.

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A white plate with Manicotti topped with sauce and cheese with basil on the side.

Manicotti

5 from 1 rating
This classic Manicotti recipe has a 4-cheese filling that can be made with or without meat, as well as spinach!

Ingredients

Manicotti

  • 10 manicotti shells, boil extra in case some break
  • 15 oz. ricotta cheese
  • ¾ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3 ½ cups mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
  • 5 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 24 oz. marinara sauce

Seasonings

  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Reserve 1 ½ cups of mozzarella cheese for the top of the manicotti.
  • Combine the ricotta, parmesan cheese, remaining mozzarella, cream cheese, eggs, and seasonings in a large bowl. Set aside in the fridge.
  • Boil shells in salted water for 1-2 minutes less than al dente, set a timer to avoid overcooking them. Drain in a colander and gently rinse with cold water until the shells are cool. Set aside.
  • Spread half of the marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish.
  • Use a spoon or a piping bag to fill each manicotti shell, letting a little extend over the top. Transfer the filled shells to the casserole dish.
  • Top with remaining marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese.
  • Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Remove cover and bake for 10 more minutes. If desired, broil at 425° for 1 minute, watch it carefully during this time. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with Garlic Bread with Cheese!

Notes

Pro Tips
  • See blog post for instructions on how to add meat and/or spinach.
  • Boil extra shells in case some break during the boiling or draining process.
  • This is one case where I like to use jarred, finely minced garlic (instead of fresh cloves). The flavor is more subtle which blends into the filling nicely.
  • Low moisture whole milk mozzarella melts the best in this recipe, shred it from a block instead of using packaged shredded cheese. It will melt and taste much  better.
  • I use Dragone for the ricotta/mozzarella, BelGioioso for the Parmesan, and Philadelphia for the cream cheese. 
  • Rao's is my go-to brand for marinara sauce, (it's really good)!

Storage
  • Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Make Ahead Method
  • Assemble the dish as outlined, but do not bake. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day, then add 10-15 minutes to covered baking time.
  • Assemble, cover, and freeze for up to 3 months. Let it fully thaw in the fridge and add 10-15 minutes to covered baking time.

Nutritional information is an estimate and is per serving. This recipe makes 5 servings (each equal to 2 manicotti). 

Nutrition

Calories: 660kcal, Carbohydrates: 35g, Protein: 40g, Fat: 40g, Saturated Fat: 23g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 11g, Trans Fat: 0.01g, Cholesterol: 198mg, Sodium: 1775mg, Potassium: 669mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 1926IU, Vitamin C: 10mg, Calcium: 765mg, Iron: 3mg
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4 comments on “Manicotti”

  1. I was so excited when I saw you posted a manicotti recipe. My husband LOVES manicotti and he ate it a lot growing up. So I decided to surprise him with this recipe when he got home from work today. He was SO HAPPY and the kitchen smelled amazing!!!! I wanted to follow the original instructions perfectly so I didn’t mess it up. Next time I will be daring enough to add spinach as you suggested. He ate 3/4 of the tray himself and he said it tasted just like childhood. I did make your garlic bread with cheese to go with it. It was definitely a successful meal. Thank you so much!

    • Wahooo! What a nice way to come home from work, he must have been thrilled Rayna! Garlic bread is such a great choice for a side, thanks so much for the great review!💗

  2. When you are going to freeze this do you first bake it then freeze it?

    • The make ahead method indicates the following, (don’t bake before you freeze. 😊)

      “ Assemble the dish as outlined, but do not bake. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day, then add 10-15 minutes to covered baking time.
      Assemble, cover, and freeze for up to 3 months. Let it fully thaw in the fridge and add 10-15 minutes to covered baking time.”

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