This Manicotti Recipe is the perfect vegetarian weeknight dinner — stuffed pasta tubes doused in your favorite sauce and topped with melty cheese! Ready in under an hour!
Don’t ask me why, but I was always SO intimidated to make manicotti. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it’s actually incredibly easy to make:
- whip up a quick filling in your food processor
- boil the manicotti tubes — just like you would any other pasta
- use a baggie (no special equipment necessary) to pipe the filling into the tubes
What is manicotti?
Manicotti is an Italian-American baked pasta dish inspired by Italian Cannelloni.
Manicotti means “little sleeve” in Italian. The manicotti noodle is a hollow tube shaped pasta aka “our sleeve” that is then stuffed with various fillings such as cheese, meat, and veggies. The noodles act as the “sleeve” for the filling!
What’s the difference between manicotti and cannelloni?
Both dishes are made up of stuffed pasta covered in sauce and cheese then baked. The difference, though, is in the actual pasta.
Manicotti are larger, thicker, ridged pasta tubes while Cannelloni are smaller, thinner, and smoother.
- Manicotti Pasta – cooked al dente before stuffing.
- Cottage Cheese – can be replaced with the more traditional ricotta, but I sub it out for cottage cheese for a lower calorie, higher protein option! I personally enjoy the flavor and texture of cottage cheese more.
- Mozzarella Cheese and Parmesan Cheese – a super creamy and delicious cheese blend for the filling.
- Italian Seasoning, Dried Basil, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Nutmeg, Salt, and Pepper – a flavorful, slightly sweet seasoning blend that really packs a flavor punch.
- Eggs – help bind the other filling ingredients together so they don’t ooze out of the pasta tubes.
- Spinach – adds a little bit of color and nutrition to our creamy, cheesy filling.
- Pasta Sauce – feel free to make it homemade or use your favorite store-bought version!
How to make
- Place cottage cheese, 1/2 of the mozzarella, 1/2 cup of the parmesan, seasonings, and eggs into your food processor and blend until combined. Pulse in your spinach then set aside.
- Pour half of the sauce into the bottom of a greased baking dish.
- Place your cheese mixture into a gallon-sized ziplock baggie, seal, then snip one corner of the baggie off with scissors.
- Pipe the filling into each manicotti shell and arrange them over the sauce.
- Pour the remaining sauce over the stuffed noodles and sprinkle on the rest of the mozzarella and parmesan.
- Bake until hot and bubbly then serve and enjoy!
Do you cook manicotti before stuffing it?
Yes! You DO need to boil the tubes (per package directions) before you stuff and bake them. Cook the manicotti al dente so it doesn’t overcook as it bakes. Undercooking it also makes it easier to stuff the tubes without breaking them!
What is manicotti filling made of?
Classic manicotti filling is made up of a blend of ricotta (today we’re using cottage cheese), mozzarella, parmesan, egg, and dried herbs and spices. The other filling ingredients vary depending on the recipe, but can include fresh greens, veggies, and/or Italian sausage.
Today, we’re keeping the recipe vegetarian and adding a little bit of color to the filling with some frozen spinach!
This manicotti recipe is so good as-is but if you’re looking to mix it up, here are some yummy suggestions!
- Add more veggies. Mix in some cooked mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, carrots, etc.
- Use different cheeses. Keep it classic with ricotta instead of cottage cheese or add in other varieties. Goat or feta would also be delicious!
- Add a protein. Mix in Italian sausage, ground turkey, ground beef, or try topping with my bolognese sauce!
What to serve with manicotti
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Garlic Bread
- Green Salad with Italian Dressing
- Dinner Rolls
- Lemon Parmesan Roasted Asparagus
Can you make manicotti in advance?
You sure can! To make your manicotti ahead of time, just assemble as directed, cover with foil, then refrigerate up to 24 hours.
When you’re ready to serve, bake as directed! It may take slightly longer to cook coming from the fridge so make sure your pasta tubes and stuffing has cooked all the way through before serving.
How to store
Store leftover manicotti in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for 1-2 months.
To reheat, thaw if frozen then bake or microwave until warmed through.
Equipment for this recipe
- 1 (8 oz) box manicotti pasta cooked al dente according to package directions
- 1 (24 oz) container full fat cottage cheese
- 1 (8 oz) block mozzarella cheese shredded and divided
- 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese divided
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 1-2 (24 oz) jar(s) pasta sauce
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease 2 (9x13 inch) baking dishes with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Place cottage cheese, 1/2 of the mozzarella, 1/2 cup of the parmesan, Italian seasoning, basil, garlic powder, onion powder, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and eggs into a food processor.
- Process until combined. It’s okay if it's still a little chunky.
- Pulse in spinach until it’s incorporated. Set aside.
- Pour half the sauce into the bottom of the prepared pans.
- Place cottage cheese mixture into a gallon sized ziplock baggie, seal, then snip one corner of the baggie with scissors.
- Pipe filling into each manicotti shell and arrange over sauce.
- Pour remaining sauce over top, then sprinkle with remaining mozzarella, and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
- Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.
*Note: Nutrition information is estimated and varies based on products used.