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This manicotti recipe is pasta bake comfort food at its finest! This easy no-boil method lets you indulge in layers of creamy cheese and savory filling without the fuss.

Manicotti recipe

Looking for a cozy pasta bake? Try this manicotti recipe, classic Italian American comfort food at its finest! There’s something so irresistible about pasta tubes filled with three cheeses and bathed in garlicky, tangy tomato sauce. This recipe is truly the easiest way to make manicotti: you don’t even have to boil pasta! No stovetop cooking required, and no fumbling stuffing flimsy pasta tubes. Fill them dry, then pop them in the oven so you can enjoy all the creamy cheese and savory filling without the fuss!

What is manicotti?

Manicotti are large pasta tubes that are pointed at the end with ridges, intended to be stuffed and baked. The word comes from the Italian word manicotto, meaning “big sleeves.” Manicotti is a popular Italian American pasta bake where the pasta is stuffed with a ricotta filling that can be either meat filled or vegetarian.

What is the difference between manicotti vs cannelloni? Cannelloni are large tubes just like manicotti, but they’re smooth and have flat ends. They are most often served with a meat filling, whereas manicotti can be vegetarian or with meat.

Manicotti Recipe

What makes this the easiest manicotti recipe

As we researched this manicotti recipe, we saw the same complaint over and over: “Why is it so hard to fill manicotti?” Once you boil the pasta tubes, they can become very delicate and difficult to fill. You can also overcook them, risking rubbery pasta.

Instead, this manicotti recipe is a no boil recipe so the dry pasta cooks in the sauce while baking. You’ll fill the pasta tubes while they are dry, then add 1 cup water to the marinara sauce which is enough moisture to cook the pasta at the same time as baking. (Note that you don’t need to buy no boil pasta, just standard manicotti.) The pasta comes out perfectly al dente: it’s magical!

Boiling option

Of course if you prefer cooking the pasta, you can do that too! Boil the pasta tubes before baking, fill them using a pastry bag, remove the 1 cup water from Step 2, and shorten the bake time by 30 minutes!

Manicotti Recipe

Best ways to fill the pasta

Manicotti is notoriously tricky to fill. It’s easiest to use a pastry bag to fill the tubes, since it squirts the filling right in. But if you’re like me, you might like avoiding the mess and hassle of pulling out your pastry bag.

Since this recipe uses dry pasta, it’s easier to fill! You can simply use a long spoon or other utensil to fill the manicotti. It takes slightly longer than the pastry bag, but it does the job well!

Ingredients for this manicotti recipe

This manicotti recipe has a three cheese filling, stuffed ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese along with with spinach, garlic, and herbs. Don’t worry: meat lovers won’t miss the meat! This one went over extremely well with friends and family! If you prefer meat, you can substitute the spinach for ¾ pound cooked and seasoned ground beef or sausage. Here’s what you’ll need for this manicotti recipe:

  • Manicotti
  • Fire roasted crushed tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried tarragon (optional)
  • Frozen spinach
  • Ricotta, Parmesan and mozzarella cheese
  • Egg
  • Fresh parsely
  • Kosher salt and pepper
Manicotti Recipe

Fire roasted tomatoes, & why to avoid jarred sauce

You’ll notice from the list above that this manicotti recipe uses a homemade tomato sauce with fire roasted tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and dried oregano. Fire roasted tomatoes are key to the flavor: they’re roasted over an open flame so their flavor is sweet and developed right out of the can. If you can’t find them, use your best quality canned crushed tomatoes and add ¼ teaspoon sugar.

Avoid substituting jarred marinara sauce in this recipe! We tested this recipe with jarred marinara sauce and the flavors tasted flat and uninspired. It takes just 5 minutes to stir together the marinara sauce for this recipe: don’t skip it!

What to serve with manicotti

Want to make this manicotti recipe into a meal? Here are a few great simple sides you can make that don’t require an oven while your manicotti bakes:

This manicotti recipe is…

Vegetarian.

Print
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Manicotti recipe

Easy Manicotti Recipe


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x

Description

This manicotti recipe is pasta bake comfort food at its finest! This easy no-boil method lets you indulge in layers of creamy cheese and savory filling without the fuss.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 8 ounces manicotti (14 shells)
  • 28 ounces fire roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (divided)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano, divided
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, plus ½ tablespoon for garnish
  • ¼ teaspoon dried tarragon (optional)
  • Black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. 
  2. Make the tomato sauce: In a medium bowl, mix the fire roasted tomatoes, 1 clove grated or minced garlic, olive oil, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Mix well until all the olive oil is incorporated. Stir in 1 cup water (this added moisture allows the dry pasta to cook while baking*).
  3. Squeeze all the liquid out of the spinach using a strainer over the sink. Mix the spinach, ricotta cheese, ½ cup Parmesan cheese, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, 1 minced garlic clove, egg, parsley, the tarragon, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper to taste. 
  4. Spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13” baking dish.
  5. Use a pastry bag or long spoon to place the filling into the dry manicotti pasta. Then place each pasta tube into the dish.
  6. Top with the remaining tomato sauce. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese. Cover with aluminum foil.
  7. Place the pan in the oven and bake covered with foil for 45 minutes, then uncover and bake for 15 minutes.  
  8. Garnish with additional chopped parsley. Allow to stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Notes

*This manicotti recipe is a no boil recipe so the dry pasta cooks in the sauce while baking. You’ll fill the pasta tubes while they are dry, then add 1 cup water to the marinara sauce which is enough moisture to cook the pasta at the same time as baking. (Important: you don’t need to buy no boil pasta, just standard manicotti.) If you prefer cooking the pasta, you can boil the pasta tubes before baking, fill them using a pastry bag, remove the 1 cup water from Step 2, and shorten the bake time by 30 minutes!

  • Category: Main dish
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Keywords: Manicotti, manicotti recipe

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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1 Comment

  1. This is delicious. I substituted the ricotta with cottage cheese for a healthier dish. Nobody knew there was no ricotta and even my cottage cheese hating husband came back for seconds 😋 🙏🏿