Brace yourself for a cheesy Italian love affair with this incredible Cheese Stuffed Manicotti! Tender pasta tubes are filled with a rich and creamy mixture of cheeses, baked in savory marinara sauce, and topped with a layer of gooey melted cheese. You won’t be able to resist falling in love with this comforting Italian classic!
Cheese Stuffed Manicotti Recipe
If you love cheesy pasta dishes like lasagna and stuffed shells, then this delicious Italian classic is a must-try! Cheese Stuffed Manicotti takes comfort food to a whole new level. With manicotti pasta tubes, also known as “little sleeves,” cradling a mixture of three different creamy and gooey cheeses baked to perfection in a bath of marinara sauce, this dish is a comforting hug of cheesy goodness!
But have no fear! While this dish boasts layers of incredible flavor, making cheese stuffed manicotti is super simple! It’s literally just a matter of boiling some pasta, stuffing it with some cheese, and covering it with any type of marinara sauce. Then you just pop it into the oven to bake, and voilà! Dinner is ready in under an hour. Even if you’re not a seasoned home cook, this recipe will make you feel like a culinary pro.
Why You’ll Love This Cheese Stuffed Manicotti
- Quick and Easy! This dish is layered with sophisticated flavor, but it’s incredibly easy to make. Boiling the shells takes just minutes, and stuffing them is effortless. In under an hour, you can enjoy cheese stuffed manicotti without spending hours in the kitchen.
- Italian Cheesy Classic! With 3 different Italian cheeses, this manicotti is an irresistible cheesy indulgence! It embodies the timeless appeal of traditional Italian cuisine that combines pasta, red sauce, and cheese to create simple yet incredible dishes.
- Crowd Pleaser! Its delicious taste and kid-friendly appeal make it perfect for shared meals and gatherings. You can serve manicotti for a special occasion or a casual family dinner and it never fails to impress, making it a guaranteed hit with guests of all ages.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Manicotti Shells – These large, tube-like pasta shells are perfect for stuffing and the foundation of this cheese manicotti recipe.
- Ricotta Cheese – Creates the base of the cheesy filling that binds all the different cheeses together. If you don’t like ricotta, you can try substituting it with cottage cheese, yet it will impact the texture slightly.
- Mozzarella Cheese – Adds a gooey cheese element to the dish.
- Parmesan Cheese – Adds a layer of salty savory flavor to the cheese mixture.
- Egg – Used to bind all the cheeses together and help the filled manicotti hold its shape.
- Dried Parsley – Brings a subtle herby flavor to the cheese filling. You can also use fresh parsley if you prefer.
- Seasonings – Salt and black pepper are used to elevate the flavors of the cheese mixture.
- Marinara Sauce – Used to coat the manicotti before it goes in to bake. While store-bought marinara is convenient, you can also use homemade marinara sauce.
- Pecorino Romano – This optional ingredient adds a salty and nutty complexity to the manicotti.
How To Make Cheese Stuffed Manicotti
Making homemade manicotti is an uncomplicated process! Even beginners in the kitchen can confidently create this mouthwatering Italian dish without any trouble. With just a handful of ingredients, you’ll have dinner on the table in under an hour.
Preheat The Oven
Begin by preheating your oven to 350°F (175°C). The oven needs to be hot when the manicotti goes in for the best results. Then grab a 9×13-inch (23×33 cm) baking dish and set it aside.
Cook The Shells
Next, cook the manicotti shells according to the package instructions until they reach al dente, which means they should be tender but still slightly firm. Then drain the shells and rinse them with cold water to stop the cooking process and prevent them from sticking together.
Make The Cheese Filling
This is the heart of the dish! To make the filling, mix the ricotta cheese, 1½ cups shredded mozzarella, ¾ cup grated parmesan, egg, dried parsley, salt, and black pepper together in a large bowl. Make sure that you mix everything together well to avoid clumps of mozzarella sticking together.
Stuff The Manicotti Shells
With the manicotti cooked and cheese mixture made, on to the fun part! Carefully stuff each tube with the cheese mixture and place it into the baking dish in a single layer. The easiest way to do this is with a piping bag or with a plastic bag with a corner cut off. Yet, you can also use a spoon if you prefer. Just take care not to tear the pasta.
Start Assembling The Dish
Spread about 1 cup of marinara sauce evenly across the bottom of a 9×13-inch (23×33 cm) baking dish. Place the filled manicotti shells in the baking dish in a single layer.
Finish Assembling the Dish
Next, pour the remaining sauce over them, making sure that each one is covered in marinara. Then sprinkle the remaining ½ cup of shredded mozzarella and ¼ cup of grated Parmesan cheese over the top, as well as the Pecorino Romano.
Bake The Cheese Stuffed Manicotti
Once the manicotti is ready to go, cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and pop it into the oven to bake for 25 minutes. Then remove the foil and let it bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Let It Rest And Serve
When done, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving. This brief moment allows the dish to settle and makes it easier to serve. Then garnish it with some more parsley and serve your cheese stuffed manicotti with some garlic bread if you like!
Frequently Asked Questions
Aside from using different Italian cheeses or adding meat to the marina sauce, you could easily incorporate roasted garlic or fresh herbs like basil. Chopped cooked spinach and kale are also commonly added to the cheese mixture. You could even drizzle the top of your manicotti with some bechamel before serving! You can be as creative as you like. Just keep in mind some additions may make it harder to stuff the tubes.
The best way to stuff manicotti without breaking them is to use a piping bag or a plastic bag with a corner cut off. This method ensures even distribution of the cheese mixture without overhandling the pasta.
As a general guideline, plan on serving 2 to 3 manicotti per person.
Yes, the filling for manicotti is typically the same as stuffed shells.
- Cook extra pasta tubes. Cook more manicotti shells than you need, as some may break during the boiling process. Having extras ensures you’ll have enough intact shells to stuff.
- Lay cooked shells flat. After rinsing the cooked shells in cold water, lay them out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. This prevents the noodles from sticking together.
- Make it meaty. Add cooked Italian sausage or ground beef to the marinara mixture. The savory meatiness complements the creamy cheese filling wonderfully.
- Add some vegetables. Mix cooked sauteed spinach, artichokes, or mushrooms into the cheese mixture for another layer of flavor and texture.
You can keep leftover cheese stuffed manicotti for up to 5 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container. To reheat, just cover them with some plastic wrap and put them in the microwave on medium power for a few minutes. You can also reheat the manicotti in the oven at 350°F (180°C) for about 10 minutes.
It’s also possible to freeze your leftovers for up to 3 months. Then when ready, reheat them in the oven frozen at 350°F (180°C) for about 45 to 50 minutes or until warm. The time it takes to reheat from frozen is also dependent on the amount you are reheating, so check it from time to time.
Discover More Pasta Dishes
- Mushroom Stroganoff
- Chicken Kiev Pasta
- Chicken Spaghetti
- Buffalo Chicken Lasagna
- The Best Lasagna
- Pasta alla Gricia
- Baked Mostaccioli
- Baked Ziti
Craving More? Follow Along:
Cheese Stuffed Manicotti
- 8 ounces manicotti shells about 14 shells
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese shredded
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese grated
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2½ cups marinara sauce
- ¼ cup Pecorino Romano grated
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Cook the manicotti shells according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain the shells and rinse with cold water to prevent them from sticking together. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, 1½ cups of shredded mozzarella, ¾ cup of grated Parmesan, egg, parsley, salt, and pepper. Mix until well combined.
- Carefully stuff each cooked manicotti shell with the cheese mixture using a spoon, piping bag, or a small plastic bag with a corner snipped off.
- Spread about 1 cup of marinara sauce evenly across the bottom of a 9×13-inch (23×33 cm) baking dish. Place the filled manicotti shells in the baking dish in a single layer.
- Pour the remaining 1½ cups of marinara sauce over the top of the stuffed manicotti shells, making sure they are fully covered. Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup of shredded mozzarella and ¼ cup of grated Parmesan cheese over the top of the manicotti. If desired, add grated Pecorino Romano cheese as well.
- Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
- Remove the manicotti from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with additional parsley, if desired.
Tips & Notes:
- Pasta Prep: Avoid over-boiling the manicotti shells. They should be just pliable for stuffing and will finish cooking in the oven.
- Cheese Blend: While ricotta is traditional, consider blending with cottage cheese for a lighter, equally delicious variation.
- Freezing: Assemble the manicotti in a freezer-safe dish, but skip the baking step if planning to freeze. When ready to enjoy, bake from frozen, adding an extra 10-15 minutes to the cooking time.
- Herbs: Fresh herbs like basil or parsley can be added to the cheese mixture for an extra layer of flavor. Dried herbs work too, but use sparingly as they’re more concentrated.