This easy Manicotti recipe is made by stuffing a lasagna noodle with a three cheese mixture, covering it in homemade sauce, and baking it in the oven.

Cheese manicotti with a homemade red sauce, served on a white plate with a side salad.

Manicotti

I have SO much love for homemade manicotti, and particularly this homemade manicotti recipe! I’ve adapted this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen and let me tell you what makes it so incredible:

First, instead of manicotti shells you buy from the store (which are flimsy, thin, and breakable) we use no-boil Barilla lasagna noodles. They give the pasta a higher noodle to cheese ratio, so you don’t feel like you’re eating a big spoonful of ricotta cheese. They also make the manicotti much easier to fill and roll-up, and they’re more authentic tasting then the thin, store-bought shells.

Second, the homemade red sauce is so simple and easy to make, but it tastes amazing, especially paired with the creaminess of the cheese filling.

Lastly, the cheese filling is the perfect blend of three different types of cheeses, with fresh chopped herbs. It’s really flavorful and delicious!

What is Manicotti?

Manicotti is an American dish inspired by Italian cannelloni. Manicotti means “small muff” or “little sleeve”  and is traditionally a stuffed crepe dish.  You may find manicotti at the store sold in large pasta shells but traditional manicotti is made with crepes instead of pasta.

What’s the difference between cannelloni and manicotti?

Cannelloni is a classic Italian dish that is very similar to manicotti.  It is made by stuffing a large tube of pasta with filling, covering it in sauce, and baking it.

This dish is somewhere in between manicotti and cannelloni.  It’s certainly an American dish but it is inspired by these Italian favorites.

How to make Manicotti?

This manicotti recipe is made by topping a no-boil lasagna noodle with a three cheese mixture, covering it in sauce and baking it in the oven.  I love this method because it’s easy and it has the perfect pasta to cheese ratio. It think it’s more authentic tasting than stuffing the shells from the store.

Make the simple homemade manicotti sauce by heating oil, garlic, and pepper flakes in large saucepan.  Next, stir in tomatoes, basil and salt and simmer until thickened slightly.

In another bowl, make the three cheese mixture by combining ricotta, Parmesan cheese, and mozzarella cheese.  Add eggs, salt, pepper, and herbs; set aside.

Overhead photo of a bowl with the ingredients for making cheese filling to fill manicotti, including ricotta, parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, eggs, basil, and parsley.

Add a few spoonfuls of the red sauce to the bottom of a baking dish.

To assemble the manicotti, add very hot water to a casserole dish. Soak the oven-ready barilla pasta in the hot water until it’s pliable. Then, lay each noodle on a flat surface and scoop about ¼ cup of cheese filling onto the short end of the pasta, closest to you. Roll the filling tightly in the noodle and place seam-side down on top of the sauce in the casserole dish.

Four process photo for making manicotti, with text on the images showing to soak the noodles, add the cheese filling, roll them up and place in the pan.

Pour the rest of the sauce over the noodles, being sure to completely cover the pasta. Bake manicotti for about 40 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

Remove it from the oven and sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese on top. Bake again for a few minutes, until the cheese has melted.Side by side photos of a white casserole dish with red sauce being poured over cheese manicotti and an overhead photo of the baked pan of manicotti.

Can I freeze manicotti or make manicotti ahead of time?

Yes! Manicotti can be prepared right up until the baking step then covered with a sheet of parchment paper, wrapped in aluminum foil, and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month. If frozen, thaw the manicotti in the refrigerator for 1 day before baking. To bake, remove the parchment, replace with new aluminum foil, and increase baking time to 1 to 1 ¼ hours.

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Recipe

Cheese manicotti with a homemade red sauce, served on a white plate with a side salad.
Prep 15 mins
Cook 1 hr 10 mins
rest time 15 mins
Total 1 hr 25 mins
Add to Meal Plan

Video

Ingredients
  

For the Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes Roma tomatoes (I prefer Contadina brand)
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic , finely mined
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes , optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes

For the Cheese Filling and Pasta:

  • 3 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 4 ounces freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 large eggs , lightly beaten
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley leaves , chopped (or 2 ½ teaspoons dried parsley)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves , chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried basil)
  • 16 no-boil lasagna noodles (I use barilla brand - or substitute store-bought manicotti shells)

Instructions
 

  • Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Heat oil, garlic, and pepper flakes (if using) in large saucepan over medium heat until fragrant but not brown, 1 to 2 minutes. 
  • Stir in tomatoes, basil and ½ teaspoon salt and simmer until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.
  • In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, 1 cup Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, eggs, salt, pepper, and herbs; set aside.
  • To assemble, pour 1 inch boiling water into 13 by 9-inch baking dish, then add noodles one at a time. Let noodles soak until pliable, about 5 minutes,  separating noodles with tip of sharp knife to prevent sticking. Remove noodles from water and place in single layer on clean kitchen towels; discard water in baking dish and dry baking dish.
  • Spread bottom of baking dish evenly with 1 ½ cups sauce. Using soupspoon, spread ¼ cup cheese mixture evenly onto bottom three-quarters of each noodle (with short side facing you), leaving top quarter of noodle exposed. 
  • Roll into tube shape and arrange in baking dish seam side down. (You should be able to fit 8 manicotti in each row, allowing all 16 to fit in the dish). Top evenly with remaining sauce, making certain that pasta is completely covered.
  • Cover manicotti with aluminum foil. Bake until bubbling, about 40 minutes. 
  • Remove the foil and sprinkle manicotti evenly with remaining 1 cup Parmesan. Bake until cheese is browned and bubbly, about 6-7 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for minutes before serving.

Notes

Nutrition

Calories: 300kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 17gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 54mgSodium: 589mgPotassium: 471mgFiber: 3gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 655IUVitamin C: 10.6mgCalcium: 328mgIron: 2.4mg

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About The Author

Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I’ve been excited to try this since you shared it and finally made it for sunday dinner. It was soo good and my family loved it. Thanks for another winner!

  2. To night will be my first meal from your page since I had stumbled across it. I only have one comment/suggestion sides, sides, sides, I find that figuring out which sides to pair with a meal are extremely difficult for me, so if you get board or need a new topic for your page this would really help me out! Thank you so much for creating such a beneficial article. I am a single mother of 4 and this paired with Walmart pick up have tremendously removed a monumental burden from my life!

    1. I’m so glad you found my site! I usually list accompaniment suggestions just above the recipe card. You can also find all my side dishes here!

  3. 5 stars
    What a great tip to soften noodles in hot water first. I never like messing with lasagna noodles but this was so simple.
    I had a little leftover ricotta cheese filling so I added it to my sauce before the pour over. Extra cheesy goodness 🙂

  4. 5 stars
    Awsome reciepe made with my sauce. Cheese mix is perfect added 1/2 c spinich.
    Men in my life loved it.
    Its a keeper they say.
    Thank you.