Manicotti, meaning “little sleeves” in Italian, is a classic dish named for its signature tube-shaped pasta shells. In this stuffed manicotti recipe, simply fill the large shells with a decadent 3-cheese mixture, top with spaghetti sauce, and bake until melted and bubbly. It's a luxurious baked pasta that's ready in 45 minutes or less!

A close up of 2 pieces of baked manicotti topped with spaghetti sauce and mozzarella cheese on a plate with a salad and a fork.
Photo Credits: Ali Redmond

Manicotti is the ultimate Italian comfort food. And this simple cheese manicotti recipe tastes like it came straight from the kitchen of your favorite Italian restaurant—or Italian nonna, for that matter! It’s equally fit for a weeknight as it is for a dinner party or date night in, particularly if garlic bread and negronis are involved. 

The real secret is in the three cheese filling. Ricotta’s texture and sweetness combine with milky, melty mozzarella and umami-rich parmesan for creamy, savory richness. A healthy dose of parsley adds freshness and balance. 

The pasta finishes cooking in the spaghetti sauce, soaking in all the flavor. Homemade sauce is a special treat, but a store-bought jar makes this baked pasta even more weeknight-friendly. Plus, like any good Italian casserole, this manicotti recipe freezes and stores well. Make it the night before a party. Or freeze it for a rainy day or a friend in need. 

Table of Contents
  1. What's In Manicotti?
  2. How to Make Manicotti 
  3. How to Store and Freeze Manicotti 
  4. What to Serve with Manicotti
  5. You’ll Also Like: Italian Casserole Recipes
  6. Save When You Bundle Our Best-Selling Olive Oil Collection!
  7. Manicotti (3-Cheese Stuffed Pasta) Recipe
Ingredients for Manicotti including uncooked manicotti, ricotta cheese, mozzarella, grated parmesan, parsley, Italian seasoning, black pepper, olive oil and spaghetti sauce.


What's In Manicotti?

Stuffing pasta for dishes like manicotti, ravioli and tortellini likely originated as a way to use up leftovers. That means it’s made from humble ingredients, many of which you likely have on hand! Here’s what you need: 

  • Manicotti: Meaning “little sleeves,” manicotti are large pasta tubes made for stuffing. 
  • Spaghetti sauce: There’s nothing quite like a homemade spaghetti sauce—I like to make a big batch to freeze for this recipe, zucchini parmesan and more. If it’s a busy weeknight though, a 24 ounce jar of high quality pasta sauce works well too. 
  • Cheese: Ricotta brings texture and richness—a high quality whole milk variety is essential. Look for whole balls of mozzarella and blocks of parmesan. They’re typically higher quality and with a better flavor than anything pre-shredded or grated. 
  • Parsley: Brings a freshness to balance the richness of the cheese.
  • Salt and pepper: Enhance the flavor.
  • Italian seasoning: I like to use my Homemade Italian Seasoning (I hold off on the salt to season as I go). I store the extra to keep on hand for oven roasted whole chicken, lemon garlic chicken, stuffed portobello mushrooms and more. You can also use store bought if you’d like.
  • Extra virgin olive oil: A drizzle of olive oil enriches the filling. Use a smooth, high quality oil, like our Italian Nocellara.
Several pieces of baked manicotti topped with spaghetti sauce and mozzarella in a baking dish next to a bowls of salad, grated parmesan cheese and parsley.


How to Make Manicotti 

Stuffed pasta seems fancy but it’s very easy to make. You just need a piping bag, or you can rig one by cutting a hole in one corner of a large plastic zip-top bag. 

  • Get ready. Position a rack in the middle of your oven and heat to 350°F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season well with salt. 
  • Cook the pasta. Add 8 ounces of manicotti to the boiling water and cook until softened but still slightly firm, about 5 to 6 minutes. Drain and cool. 
  • Prepare the filling. Add 15 ounces of ricotta cheese to a medium mixing bowl, along with 5 ounces of torn mozzarella and a heaping ¼ cup of grated parmesan. Add ⅓ cup of finely chopped parsley, 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning and a big pinch of salt and pepper (about ½ to ¾ teaspoon each, depending on whether your Italian seasoning already has salt). Add a drizzle of olive oil and mix until well-combined. Filling for the manicotti in a blue bowl with a spoon.
  • Get ready to stuff. Add 1 ½ cups of spaghetti sauce to the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and tilt to spread. Transfer the filling to a piping bag and fit with a round piping tip. Or fill a large zip-top bag and snip off the corner. 
  • Stuff the cooked manicotti shells. When the manicotti tubes are cool enough to handle, squeeze the ricotta filling into each side until completely stuffed. Arrange the stuffed manicotti in the prepared baking dish as you go.3 pieces of filled, unbaked manicotti on top of a layer of spaghetti sauce in a baking dish next to another filled manicotti and a colander of unfilled manicotti.
  • Layer and bake. Top the stuffed pasta with 1 ½ cups of spaghetti sauce,  a heaping ¼ cup of parmesan cheese, and 5 ounces of torn mozzarella. Bake on the center rack of your heated oven until the cheese is bubbling and melty, 20 to 30 minutes. Several pieces of unbaked manicotti topped with spaghetti sauce and torn pieces of mozzarella cheese in a baking dish.
  • Rest and serve. Remove the baking dish from the oven and allow it to rest for about 5 to 10 minutes. Garnish with more chopped parsley and serve! A fork picking up a bite of manicotti from a plate of more manicotti and a salad.


How to Store and Freeze Manicotti 

If you can resist digging into this manicotti while it’s freshly baked and bubbling, it stores and freezes well. You can make it the day before a dinner party or date night to get ahead. A frozen casserole is also a great way to support new parents, new neighbors or friends or family going through a difficult time.

To store,  layer the stuffed manicotti and with pasta sauce but do not bake it. You have two options from there:

  • To freeze: Wrap tightly with plastic, followed by foil and freeze for up to 2 months. Unwrap and bake from frozen until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the center is hot, about 50 minutes to 1 hour in total. 
  • To refrigerate: Wrap tightly with plastic and refrigerate for 24 hours. Unwrap and bake until the cheese has melted and slightly browned, 30 to 40 minutes in total. 
Several pieces of baked manicotti topped with spaghetti sauce and mozzarella in a baking dish next to a bowls of salad, and grated parmesan cheese.


What to Serve with Manicotti

This cheese manicotti recipe is all you need for an easy weeknight in. For a date night or an extra special evening, serve with an Italian red and freshly made garlic bread.

Follow my garlic bread recipe with a few tweaks: bake the bread at 350°F along with your manicotti in the final 10 minutes. Then remove the foil, open the bread, and turn the oven to 400°F to finish as the manicotti rests. 

While the bread bakes, throw together a 5-minute lemon parmesan salad for a bright freshness that will balance the richness of the manicotti.

You’ll Also Like: Italian Casserole Recipes

Browse all Mediterranean recipes.

Visit Our Shop

Save When You Bundle Our Best-Selling Olive Oil Collection!

Four signature extra virgin olive oils designed for everyday use.

the mediterranean dish everyday extra olive oil bundle including koroneiki, arbequina, nocellara, and hojiblanca extra virgin olive oils.
5 from 5 votes

Manicotti (3-Cheese Stuffed Pasta)

Suzy Karadsheh
2 pieces of baked manicotti topped with spaghetti sauce and mozzarella cheese on a plate with a salad and a fork next to a glass of red wine and a small bowl of parsley.
Manicotti, meaning “little sleeves” in Italian, is a classic dish named for its signature tube-shaped pasta shells. In this easy recipe, you simply stuff the large shells with a decadent 3-cheese mixture, layer with spaghetti sauce, and bake until melted and bubbly. It's a luxurious baked pasta that's ready in 45 minutes or less! And, you can freeze it for a later date or a friend in need (see tips below).
Prep – 15 minutes
Cook – 20 minutes
Total – 35 minutes
Cuisine:
Italian
Serves – 8 up to
Course:
Entree

Ingredients
  

  • Kosher salt
  • 8 ounces (12 tubes) manicotti pasta
  • 15 ounces whole milk ricotta
  • 10 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn or sliced
  • ¾ cup freshly grated parmesan
  • cup finely chopped parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (I use my homemade Italian seasoning recipe without added salt)
  • Black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups homemade spaghetti sauce (or substitute with one 24-ounce jar of marinara)

Instructions
 

  • Get ready. Position a rack in the middle of your oven and heat to 350°F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season well with salt.
  • Cook the pasta. Add the manicotti to the boiling water and cook until softened but still slightly firm, about 5 to 6 minutes. Drain and cool.
  • Prepare the filling. Add the ricotta cheese to a medium mixing bowl, along with half of the mozzarella and parmesan (save the remaining for later). Add the parsley, Italian seasoning and a big pinch of salt and pepper (about ½ to ¾ teaspoon each, depending on whether your Italian seasoning already has salt). Add a drizzle of olive oil and mix until well-combined.
  • Get ready to stuff. Add half of the spaghetti sauce to the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and tilt to spread. Transfer the filling to a piping bag and fit with a round piping tip. If you don’t have a piping bag, use a large zip-top bag with the corner snipped off.
  • Stuff the cooked manicotti shells. When the manicotti tubes are cool enough to handle, squeeze the ricotta filling into each side until completely stuffed. Arrange the stuffed manicotti in the prepared baking dish as you go.
  • Layer and bake. Top the stuffed pasta with the remaining spaghetti sauce, parmesan, and mozzarella. Bake on the center rack of your heated oven until the cheese is bubbling and melty, 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Rest and serve. Remove the baking dish from the oven and allow it to rest for about 5 to 10 minutes. Garnish with more parsley and serve!

Video

Notes

  • To refrigerate: Wrap tightly with plastic and refrigerate up to overnight. Unwrap and bake until the cheese has melted and slightly browned, 30 to 40 minutes in total. 
  • To freeze: Wrap tightly with plastic and freeze for up to 2 months. Unwrap and bake from frozen until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the center is hot, about 50 minutes to 1 hour in total.
  • Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams, and spices.

Nutrition

Calories: 262.9kcalCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 17.8gFat: 17.8gSaturated Fat: 10.6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.7gMonounsaturated Fat: 4.9gCholesterol: 63.3mgSodium: 867.9mgPotassium: 394.6mgFiber: 1.7gSugar: 3.8gVitamin A: 1176.2IUVitamin C: 9.8mgCalcium: 398.2mgIron: 1.7mg
Tried this recipe?

Share it with the world

I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
Learn More

Get our best recipes and all Things Mediterranean delivered to your inbox.
5 from 5 votes (2 ratings without comment)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How many stars would you give this recipe?




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments

  1. Dan says:

    5 stars
    One note for this (YES it was awesome and will make again and again...). I think reducing the spaghetti sauce would be beneficial. I thought I reduced mine enough, but still had some water at the bottom of the pan. I did not reduce it for one of the lasagna recipes here and it was a bit sloppy. Next time I will make the sauce the night before and then reduce again the day after.

    Amazing flavor, ate too much and needed a nap badly. Success in other words!

    1. TMD Team says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts here, Dan! Glad you enjoyed the recipe.

  2. Pauley says:

    5 stars
    This is absolutely delicious, especially paired with the Easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce, listed and linked in the recipe above, and at themediterraneandish.com !

    1. TMD Team says:

      Thanks, Pauley!

  3. george says:

    Can't find manicotti in Cambodia so I used rolled up lasagna sheets

    1. TMD Team says:

      That's a great idea! Thanks for sharing, George!

  4. Jo says:

    5 stars
    I really want to make this for tonight. Unfortunately, I don't have any manicotti tubes but I have a "boat-load" of lasagna noodles. I'm thinking this would make a great meat-less lasagna and am looking forward to dinner tonight with a side salad.

    Thank you for such a great recipe. It totally suits my salty/savory pallette.