This authentic Italian manicotti recipe is easy to assemble and full of classic flavors. Make this comfort food meal in just under an hour!
Italian pasta dishes are so versatile because they can be served for a casual family dinner or for a fancy dinner date.
Similar to lasagna, baked manicotti combines tender pasta with flavorful meat, fresh cheese, and a seasoned red sauce.
Even better, this recipe can be made ahead of time and doubled or tripled to feed a crowd!
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
Note: This is just a partial list of ingredients. For the full ingredient list, see the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Manicotti pasta shells – These are large, tube-shaped pasta shells with ridges on the outside. If needed, substitute with large lasagna noodles and roll them up after making a line of filling in the middle.
- Spaghetti sauce – I like to use my homemade marinara for this recipe, but feel free to use your favorite homemade or jarred variety.
- Ground meat – Using a combination of beef and pork creates a depth of flavor to the dish. Also, the pork adds extra fat which prevents the meat from coming out crumbly and dry.
- Mozzarella and parmesan – Always buy fresh cheese and shred it by hand, since bagged shreds contain a preservative that prevents them from melting properly. Plus, the flavor is noticeably better.
How to make baked manicotti
Cook the pasta shells and carefully stuff them with homemade filling. Then, cover the manicotti in marinara and fresh cheese before baking until bubbly and golden brown!
Serve with a simple green salad and a loaf of garlic bread.
Brown the meat
- Saute the onion, garlic, and ground meats in oil until there is no more visible pink.
- Once browned, remove from heat and let cool.
Cook the pasta
- Next, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Add the manicotti shells and cook just for 4 to 6 minutes. This keeps them firm enough to stuff, and then they’ll finish cooking when baked.
- Then, drain and gently toss with olive oil so they don’t stick to each other.
Stuff the shells
- Mix together the cheeses and spices, reserving some of the cheese for later.
- Once well combined, fold in the meat mixture.
- Next, pipe the filling into the cooked shells or spoon some onto the ends and press into the center with your fingers. Be very careful so you don’t tear the pasta.
Bake and serve
- Grease a baking dish with oil, then spread a thin layer of pasta sauce along the bottom. This keeps the pasta tender so it doesn’t harden on the bottom.
- Carefully lay the stuffed manicotti in the pan in a single layer and spoon the rest of the sauce over the top.
- Then, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and top with small cubes of butter.
- Bake until the cheese is bubbly and browned, then rest for a few minutes before serving.
- Storage – Cover the baked manicotti or transfer to an airtight container before placing in the refrigerator. Use within 3 to 5 days or cover and freeze for up to 1 to 2 months.
- Reheating – For best results, bake leftovers with a little extra pasta sauce. Or, heat in the microwave until warmed through.
- Piping the filling – It’s easy to make your own piping bag with a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Just add the filling, then snip off a bottom corner and squeeze from the opposite side. For best results, fill half the shell from one side before finishing from the other side.
- Make ahead – Prepare the recipe up to the point of baking, then cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours in advance. Let the pan sit on the counter for about 1 hour to bring it to room temperature, then bake as directed.
OTHER ITALIAN PASTA RECIPES TO MAKE
Otherwise, any of these other pasta dishes are sure to hit the spot!
Beef and Cheese Manicotti
- 14 manicotti pasta shells (8 ounce package)
- 3 cups spaghetti (marinara sauce)
- 2 tbsp butter cut into pieces
- 4 tsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 15 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
- 3 1/2 cups mozzarella shredded
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese grated
- 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley chopped
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- In a skillet over medium heat, add 2 teaspoons of the olive oil, onion, garlic and ground beef and pork. Season with salt and pepper. Brown the meat and the onion, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and cool to mix with cheese filling.
- Cook the manicotti in a large pot of heavily salted boiling water for 6 minutes. Drain and gently toss with a little olive oil to keep from sticking and allow to cool.
- Combine ricotta cheese, 2 cups mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan, parsley and nutmeg. Mix well and stir the cooled meat mixture into the cheese mixture. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Drizzle the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in a 13x9 baking dish to coat. Spoon 1 1/2 cups of the spaghetti (marinara) sauce over the bottom of the dish.
- Either place all of the meat/cheese mixture in a Ziploc bag and cut off one corner to squeeze filling into shells, OR carefully spoon filling in each manicotti by hand.
- Arrange in a single layer in the prepared dish and spoon the remaining sauce over. Sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese and remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan over the stuffed pasta. Divide the butter pieces evenly over top.
- Bake the manicotti, uncovered, for about 30 to 35 minutes. Let the manicotti stand 5 minutes before serving.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.