This easy manicotti recipe is not only extra cheesy but gets a vitamin boost with the addition of spinach for an extra delicious baked pasta dinner.
Quadrupling down on cheesy goodness is what makes bubbling pasta bakes like this stuffed manicotti recipe warm my soul—and my stomach. In this classic manicotti recipe, four kinds of cheese studded with spinach fill the manicotti pasta, then topped and bottomed with marinara or pomodoro sauce, and yes, even more cheese. Decadent yet somehow not too heavy, this manicotti dinner delivers even more weeknight-simple vibes when you buy jarred sauce if there’s no time for making your own.
Here are the manicotti ingredients you’ll need to make this stuffed pasta:
- Manicotti noodles
- Ricotta cheese—I like whole milk ricotta cheese in this recipe
- Eggs—I use eggs in manicotti so the filling firms up as it bakes
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Frozen spinach, thawed and pressed dry
- Mozzarella cheese
- Provolone—this cheese gives even more melt than mozzarella
- Parmesan cheese—use freshly grated and skip the canned stuff
- DeLallo jarred marinara or pomodoro sauce—jarred is especially convenient, or make my homemade marinara sauce or homemade pomodoro sauce
- Parsley—flat leaf or curly works equally well
How to Make Manicotti
- Cook the manicotti noodles in a shallow pot. Boiling the noodles in a shallow pot or high-sided skillet with salted water helps keep the noodles from sticking to one another. Cook them in batches if needed.
- Cook the noodles 2-3 minutes shy of package directions and transfer to an oiled baking sheet. Firmer noodles make for easier stuffing. The noodles won’t be hard because they continue to cook as they bake. Placing them on an oiled baking sheet keeps them from sticking to one another before and while stuffing.
- Whisk the eggs, salt and pepper, and the nutmeg into the ricotta cheese. Eggs help bind the cheesy filling as it bakes and nutmeg adds a warming note to the filling.
Mix the Manicotti Filling
- Add the shredded cheese to the ricotta mixture. A combination of cheeses creates the ultimate cheese melt plus tangy flavors.
- Thaw the spinach, drain, and press all of the water from it. Because nobody wants a watery filling, be sure to press all of the water from the frozen spinach before adding it to the cheese.
Can I Use Fresh Spinach Instead of Frozen Spinach in Manicotti Pasta?
Frozen spinach has been blanched and therefore mixes into the cheese blend better than fresh spinach leaves would. This recipe calls for 6 ounces of frozen spinach which is equivalent to about 1 ½ pounds of fresh spinach. Given that, if using fresh spinach, blanche it, drain, and squeeze all of the water from it before roughly chopping. I don’t recommend using uncooked spinach because of its high water content which can make the filling watery.
How to Stuff Manicotti Without Breaking Them
My favorite method for stuffing manicotti noodles without breaking them is to use a homemade piping bag.
- Fill a gallon freezer bag (or a pastry bag) with the cheese mixture. Squeeze all of the filling into one corner of the bag. Then, twist the top of the bag to create a cone.
- Cut off the corner of the bag. Make the cut large enough for the clumps of spinach in the filling to fit through.
- Pipe the filling in one end of the manicotti tube, then flip and repeat with the other end.
- Or, use a long, skinny spoon (like an iced tea spoon) to gently spoon the filling into the tubes.
Fill the Dish With Cheesy Manicotti Shells
- Spread half of the marinara sauce to the bottom of the baking dish.
- Arrange the tubes in a single layer in the baking dish.
- If you have extra noodles, bake them separately in a smaller dish, or chop them up and use them in soup.
- If you have extra filling, save it for another use. I like mixing it into scrambled eggs or topping toasted slices of sourdough.
Cover and Bake
- Cover the manicotti with the rest of the marinara sauce and top with cheese.
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil sprayed with cooking spray. Try to keep the foil off of the cheese so it doesn’t stick when melted. Use toothpicks to prop the foil above if needed.
- Bake! If you like a browned cheese top, remove the foil during the last ten minutes of baking.
- Can I make manicotti without boiling the pasta? Yes, you can make manicotti without boiling the noodles first. Make the recipe as instructed minus boiling noodles, and bake for an extra 10 minutes while covered with the foil.
- Can I make manicotti with meat? Yes, definitely! Brown ½ pound ground beef or ground Italian sausage, allow it to cool slightly, then mix into the cheese filling.
- Can I make manicotti with chicken? Yes, store-bought rotisserie chicken, shredded baked chicken, ground chicken, or ground turkey would work mixed into the cheese mixture as well.
- What’s the best sauce for manicotti? While I love my homemade marinara and my pomodoro sauce, using a quality jarred sauce for making manicotti is a true time saver.
What’s the Difference Between Cannelloni and Manicotti
Manicotti and cannelloni are essentially the same thing. Manicotti as we know it is called “cannelloni” in Italy. Cannelloni (at least in Italy) is a pasta sheet that is filled and rolled into a cylinder. You can find formed tubes of cannelloni at most grocery stores in the U.S.. By comparison, Manicotti is a ridged, tubular type of pasta whereas cannelloni tubes are smooth. Generally, both are usually prepared with a creamy filling and served in a sauce.
What to Serve with Manicotti
- Killer Garlic Knots
- The BEST Garlic Bread
- Caesar Salad with Garlic Croutons
- Italian Chopped Salad with Marinated Chickpeas
- Arugula Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
THE BEST Manicotti Recipe
- 8 ounce package manicotti noodles
- 16 ounces ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs , beaten
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 6 ounces frozen chopped spinach , thawed
- 2 cups provolone , shredded
- 2 cups mozzarella , shredded
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese , shredded plus more for serving
- 25 ounce jar marinara sauce
- 2 tablespoons parsley , chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Fill a large, shallow pot or high-sided skillet with enough water to cover the noodles and bring to a boil. Salt the water then add the noodles and cook 3 minutes less than the package cooking directions. Transfer the noodles to a baking sheet drizzled with olive oil, lightly rolling the noodles so they don't stick. Cook the noodles in batches if needed.
- While the noodles cook, mix the ricotta, beaten eggs, nutmeg, kosher salt, and black pepper in a small bowl. In a large bowl, add ¾ of the shredded cheese, thawed spinach, and the ricotta cheese mixture. Fold well to combine.
- Pour half of the marinara sauce into a 9" X 13" baking dish.
- Fill a gallon freezer bag with the cheese mixture, squeezing all of the filling into one corner of the bag. Twist the top of the bag to create a cone and cut off one corner of the bag. Make the cut large enough for the clumps of spinach in the filling to fit through. Pipe the filling in one end of the manicotti tube, then flip and repeat with the other end. Repeat with the rest of the noodles and arrange in rows in the baking dish.
- Top the filled noodles with the rest of the marinara and shredded cheese. Sprinkle with the parsley. Spray a piece of aluminum foil with cooking spray and cover the dish taking care that the foil doesn't sit directly on the cheese. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking if you like a lightly browned cheese. Garnish with more Parmesan and chopped parsley if desired.
More Cheesy Pastas You’ll Love
- THE BEST Lasagna
- Baked Sausage and Cheese Rigatoni
- The BEST Baked Mac and Cheese
- Harvest Squash and Ricotta Stuffed Shells
- Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Ricotta Cheese
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