Our Manicotti recipe is an easy pasta casserole featuring a 3 cheese filling and topped with delicious marinara sauce. It has all the melty cheesiness and amazing flavor that makes Italian food so irresistible, and it’s incredibly easy to make.

Just like with our Spaghetti and Meatballs or Baked Ziti, there’s something so satisfying about perfectly cooked pasta in a flavorful tomato marinara sauce. Manicotti is one of those timeless classics that you’ll make on repeat. 

the best Manicotti recipe with three cheeses and homemade marinara sauce

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What is Manicotti?

Stuffed Manicotti (Pronounced: ma·nuh·kaa·tee) is similar to a traditional Italian dish called Cannelloni. In the Americanized adaptation, Manicotti shells are stuffed with a cheese filling, topped with marinara sauce, and baked.

If you enjoy the classic flavors of Lasagna and Stuffed Shells, you will love this Italian-American Manicotti Recipe. It’s a quick and easy weeknight meal but also feels special enough for a holiday dinner. 

This Manicotti is also the perfect recipe when making and delivering a meal to friends or neighbors after having a baby or when someone is under the weather. Cheesy Italian comfort food makes everyone feel loved. Here are some of the reasons you’ll love it:

  • Easy to make
  • Family-friendly recipe
  • Make ahead and freezer-friendly
  • Reheats well for leftovers
  • Budget-friendly for feeding a big crowd
  • Easy swaps and substitutions

Manicotti Recipe Video

Natasha shows you how simple it is to assemble and bake this cheese manicotti recipe. Be sure to see her tips on the easiest way to fill the pasta before baking.

Ingredients for Stuffed Manicotti

The ingredients for stuffed Manicotti feature Italian staples and three delicious cheeses. It’s a winning combination!

  • Manicotti shells – the pasta tubes are perfect for filling and the ridges grab the sauce for the perfect bite. Substitute shells, if needed.
  • Marinara sauce – use our homemade marinara sauce or store-bought sauce. You’ll need 3-4 cups
  • Heavy cream – an optional ingredient used to balance the marinara sauce
  • Ricotta cheese – use whole milk ricotta so the filling isn’t too watery
  • Mozzarella cheese – shredded 8oz block, divided for filling and topping
  • Parmesan cheese – 1 cup grated cheese, divided
  • Parsley – fresh is best, but you can use 1 1/2 tsp of dried parsley in a pinch
  • Garlic – grated or pressed will be easier to distribute evenly in the filling
  • Salt and pepper – don’t forget to salt the pasta water—it adds so much flavor to the pasta!
  • Nutmeg – just 1/4 tsp brings out amazing flavor in the ricotta cheese. Trust me on this one!
Ingredients for manicotti pasta including ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, nutmeg, marinara, parsley, heavy cream and Parmesan cheese

Pro Tip:

In this recipe, it’s best to grate your own cheese using a box grater or your food processor instead of using pre-shredded cheese. It will melt better and taste better!

Substitutions

This cheese manicotti recipe is delicious, but you can make it your own with a few quick substitutions. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Add protein – use meat sauce instead of marinara
  • Add veggies – add chopped fresh or frozen spinach (but be sure to squeeze out any liquid), finely chopped mushrooms, sautéed onions, or roasted red bell peppers to the filling
  • Add heat – add red pepper flakes to the filling
  • Swap cheeses – replace some of the ricotta with cottage cheese, or use pecorino Romano instead of parmesan in the cheese mixture or over the top
  • Switch sauces – use Béchamel, Alfredo, or Bolognese sauce

How to Make the Best Manicotti

This dish looks complex and upscale—but I promise it’s so simple to make and comes together quickly in these easy steps:

  • Boil salted water, add pasta and cook for about 5 minutes until barely tender. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix the heavy cream into the marinara sauce, then spread 1 cup of the sauce to cover the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.
  • Mix the eggs, ricotta, half the mozzarella, half the parmesan, parsley, garlic, 3/4 tsp of salt, 1/4 tsp of pepper, and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl.
  • Fill a piping bag or gallon zip-top bag with the mixture, snip off a 3/4″ corner then fill the pasta tubes, and lay them in a single layer into the baking dish.
  • Cover the pasta with the remaining sauce, and then sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top. Bake covered with foil for 25 minutes, and then remove the foil and return to the oven for 10 more minutes. Garnish with parsley to serve.

Pro Tip:

Salting pasta water is so important for taste and texture! We use about 2 Tbsp of salt for a large pot of water, but since salt can differ, be sure your water tastes like ocean water.

Step by step directions for stuffed pasta bake

Pro Tip:

When parboiling the manicotti shells, you want the pasta only slightly cooked since it will finish cooking in the oven. It should be ‘extra al-dente’ and cooked for less than the package instructions. We boiled for 5 minutes while the package called for 7 minutes. This will also make it easier to fill.

Manicotti recipe with three cheeses and marinara sauce

Common Questions

What is the best way to stuff manicotti shells?

I have found that the quickest and least messy way to stuff manicotti shells is to use a disposable piping bag or large zip-top bag to fill the pasta tubes, as demonstrated in the video above. You can also use a long-handled, thin spoon to scoop the filling into the shells.

Do I have to boil the Manicotti pasta before stuffing?

It’s important to parboil the manicotti before filling the pasta to be sure it fully cooks. You don’t want any crunchy pasta bites that didn’t cook in the sauce and No-boil pasta tends to turn out gummy. It’s worth the few extra minutes!

Can manicotti be frozen?

This dish freezes well, so see my tips in our Make-Ahead section below.

What is manicotti vs stuffed shells?

The difference between Stuffed Manicotti and Stuffed Shells is the type of pasta used in the dish. The name Manicotti means “little sleeves” in Italian referring to how the pasta resembles tubes with ridges, while stuffed shells resemble shells with a bowl shape and ridges.

What is the difference between cannelloni and manicotti?

Cannelloni is a traditional dish that inspired the Americanized Manicotti recipe. Instead of tube pasta, Cannelloni uses rectangle pasta, similar to lasagna noodles, spread with cheese filling and rolled into a tube.

What to Serve with Manicotti

This Italian-inspired dish is so satisfying and delicious and pairs well with fresh salads, roasted veggies, and crusty bread to soak up the sauce. Here are a few of our favorite sides (and don’t forget dessert):

Manicotti recipe with stuffed pasta, cheese and marinara sauce

Make-Ahead

Manicotti is a great dish to make ahead since it freezes well and feeds a crowd.

  • Prep up to 8 hours ahead: assemble, cover with a layer of parchment and then foil, and refrigerate until ready to bake, and then add 15 minutes to the cooking time
  • Freeze up to 3 months ahead: assemble, cover with a layer of parchment and then foil, store in the freezer, and then thaw overnight in the fridge and bake according to the recipe instructions. Bake from frozen by putting the dish in the oven at 400 for 1.5 to 2 hours covered, and then 10 minutes uncovered or until bubbly.

How to Store Leftover Manicotti

  • To Refrigerate: leftovers keep covered in the fridge for 5 days
  • Freezing: freeze leftovers in an airtight container for 3 months
  • To Reheat: Thaw overnight in the fridge, and then heat at 350 in the oven until bubbly, or microwave individual servings covered with a paper towel in 30-second intervals until warmed through.
Baked Cheese manicotti recipe in a dish with parsley

This baked stuffed Manicotti recipe has all the yummy Italian flavors and the cheesy, saucy goodness we love in an easy-to-master recipe. It’s a great weeknight meal, but impressive enough to serve at a holiday party. I know this will become one of your go-to dishes.

More Top-Rated Pasta Recipes

Once you try this stuffed pasta recipe, we know you’ll also love these other fan-favorite pasta dishes:

PS. If you love pasta recipes, we have some new ones in our new Cookbook that haven’t been shared on the blog. Family favorites like Baked Mac and Cheese, Italian Style Lasagna, and my son’s Famous Alfredo sauce. You can order the Natasha’s Kitchen Cookbook here

Natasha's Kitchen Cookbook

Manicotti Recipe

5 from 20 votes
Author: Natasha Kravchuk
Serving stuffed Manicotti with melted cheese in a white dish
Stuffed Manicotti is a delicious Italian-American baked pasta dish with three melty cheeses, tube-like pasta, and marinara sauce cooked to perfection. It comes together quickly, so it’s great for a weeknight meal, but also fancy enough for a holiday party.
Our family-friendly manicotti recipe is easy to assemble and is perfect to make ahead or share with a neighbor. We know this will quickly become your go-to recipe.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Cooling time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients 

Servings: 7 people
  • 8 oz Manicotti Pasta, 14 ct
  • 3 cups Marinara Sauce, homemade or store-bought
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, optional (tones down acidity of marinara)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 24 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, 8oz block, divided
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 2 garlic clove, grated or pressed
  • 3/4 tsp fine sea salt, plus more for pasta cooking water
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil with about 2 Tbsp Salt – add enough salt for it to taste like ocean water. Add pasta and cook until barely tender and extra al dente. I cooked for exactly 5 minutes. Remember it will continue cooking in the oven. Stir the pasta initially to prevent sticking. Drain pasta and immediately rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process then drain well.
  • Stir cream into your marinara then pour about 1 cup of this sauce into a 9×13 casserole dish and tilt the pan to spread around the bottom.
  • In a large mixing bowl lightly beat 2 eggs then add ricotta, half of the mozzarella, half of the parmesan cheese, parsley, garlic, salt, tsp pepper, and nutmeg.
  • Transfer the mixture to a piping bag with a large round tip or use a large zip bag and cut off a 3/4” corner for piping. Fill all of the manicotti pasta and arrange them in a single layer in the prepared casserole dish.
  • Pour the remaining marinara over the top and top with the remaining mozzarella and parmesan. Cover with foil and bake covered for 25 minutes then uncover and bake another 10 minutes until cheese is melted and golden. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with more parsley and serve.

Notes

Add More Protein: Instead of Marinara, you can add ground beef to the recipe by using Bolognese Sauce.

Nutrition Per Serving

506kcal Calories36g Carbs30g Protein27g Fat16g Saturated Fat1g Polyunsaturated Fat7g Monounsaturated Fat0.004g Trans Fat139mg Cholesterol1302mg Sodium582mg Potassium3g Fiber6g Sugar1540IU Vitamin A11mg Vitamin C619mg Calcium2mg Iron
Nutrition Facts
Manicotti Recipe
Amount per Serving
Calories
506
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
27
g
42
%
Saturated Fat
 
16
g
100
%
Trans Fat
 
0.004
g
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
1
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
7
g
Cholesterol
 
139
mg
46
%
Sodium
 
1302
mg
57
%
Potassium
 
582
mg
17
%
Carbohydrates
 
36
g
12
%
Fiber
 
3
g
13
%
Sugar
 
6
g
7
%
Protein
 
30
g
60
%
Vitamin A
 
1540
IU
31
%
Vitamin C
 
11
mg
13
%
Calcium
 
619
mg
62
%
Iron
 
2
mg
11
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keyword: manicotti, manicotti recipe, stuffed manicotti
Skill Level: Easy
Cost to Make: $
Calories: 506

Natasha Kravchuk

Welcome to my kitchen! I am Natasha, the blogger behind Natasha's Kitchen (since 2009). My husband and I run this blog together and share only our best, family approved and tested recipes with YOU. Thanks for stopping by! We are so happy you're here.

Read more posts by Natasha

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Recipe Rating




Comments

  • Diana Koziol
    January 9, 2024

    Natasha, I made your manicotti recipe. It was delicious. I did put my own spin on it as it calls for boiled, al dente shells and my shell were “oven ready”. Had enough filling for 24shells. Baked at 350° for 40 mins covered and then 10 mins more uncovered. was yummy. Will freeze half of them. Hope they freeze well and reheat well.
    Thank you for the recipe.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      January 9, 2024

      Hi Diana! You’re welcome. Thank you for sharing that with us.

      Reply

  • Vicki
    December 26, 2023

    OMG!! Love thos recipe. And so easy. Made with homemade sauce. Was a hit! Thank you!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      December 26, 2023

      So glad you love it!

      Reply

  • Valerie
    December 19, 2023

    I often use full fat cottage cheese in my lasagna recipe. How do you think it might work here? It’s certainly less expensive than ricotta.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      December 19, 2023

      Hi Valerie! We’ve tested replacing some of the ricotta with cottage cheese but not eliminating the ricotta completely. Let us know how it is if you experiment.

      Reply

  • Sha
    December 16, 2023

    We had no leftovers with this Manicotti recipe! It is super rich and scrumptious. The filling is a winner!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      December 16, 2023

      That’s wonderful, Sha!

      Reply

  • Vickie Newsom
    December 16, 2023

    On your web site you make too confusing to find and watch video I even find it to make manicotti shells🙄

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      December 16, 2023

      Hi Vickie! It’s posted right under the header that says “Manicotti Recipe Video.”

      Reply

  • DB
    December 15, 2023

    Your video is in English but your closed captions are in Arabic. Can you please make your closed captioning available in English to those who cannot read Arabic?

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      December 15, 2023

      Hi DB, The closed captioning default is usually determined by your device/ account settings, but you can definitely change the closed captioning to your desired language. On the bottom left of the video, click the gear icon on, Click Subtitles/CC, Select your desired language from the 5 options. I hope this helps.

      Reply

  • Harriet Stambaugh
    December 15, 2023

    Tried your Cowboy Caviar Salsa!
    It was so delicious that I am going to make it as an appetizer on Christmas Eve night. It also was easy to make.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      December 15, 2023

      So glad you loved it!

      Reply

  • Jack and Polly
    December 15, 2023

    Jack & I love this recipe, it was so easy to make and awesome to eat, Thank You Jack & Polly

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      December 15, 2023

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for the feedback!

      Reply

  • Madeline
    December 15, 2023

    AWESOME!!
    I love new recipes!

    I had previously tried to make my own manicotti with your lasagna recipe so I’m curious how this will turn out

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      December 15, 2023

      Let us know how you like the recipe!

      Reply

  • Maryann Rimoin
    December 15, 2023

    sounds delicious. I will make soon. As I mentioned in my comments before, my screen keeps rolling down to the bottom of the recipes. Can you fix this? I use Safari & it’s very frustrating. Not going to change my URL. Love your recipes but if you can’t fix this, I will have to delete your site. Would you please respond to me? thanks. Maryann

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      December 17, 2023

      Have you tried using Google Chrome? I haven’t had that experience before though using safari. You can try closing some of the pop up windows when you are viewing the website.

      Reply

    • Brenda
      January 11, 2024

      I use Safari on my Iphone and it didn’t do that. It will move once in a while when an ad changes, but doesn’t go to the bottom of recipe, just moves a bit. Hope that helps

      Reply

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