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Make restaurant-quality, Classic Cheese Manicotti at home tonight! Tender tubes of pasta are stuffed with a creamy ricotta filling, topped with sauce and more cheese – then baked to perfection!
This manicotti recipe is one that every home cook should have in their recipe collection. It’s a delicious Italian classic entree that everyone loves!
Why you’ll love Classic Cheese Manicotti
- It can be served as a meatless entree with garlic bread and a salad, or as a side dish alongside Italian-style meatballs, an Italian pot roast, or roast chicken.
- You can do all of the prep ahead of time, then bake in the oven when you are ready to eat.
- If you follow our simple instructions below, this creamy, cheese manicotti is actually quite easy to make!
Key ingredients and Substitutions
- Manicotti – Buy the basic, uncooked, ribbed pasta tubes – typically sold with approximately 14 manicotti per package.
- Whole milk ricotta cheese – While you can choose a lower fat version, we think the whole milk ricotta adds richness and has the best flavor.
- Other cheeses – Both shredded mozzarella and grated Parmesan cheese are used in the filling and sprinkled over the top when baking.
- Onions and garlic – These diced vegetables are sauteed in a good quality, extra virgin olive oil, then mixed in the filling to add delicious savory flavors.
- Eggs – Whole eggs are used to bind the filling.
- Seasonings – Kosher salt, white pepper, fresh parsley, oregano and basil are used to flavor the filling. If you substitute dry herbs, cut the quantities in half.
- Marinara sauce – Use our easy, homemade Marinara Sauce recipe, or buy jarred. If you’d like, you can also serve your cheese manicotti with a meat sauce such as Bolognese.
Chef’s Tip – Drain the ricotta cheese of any excess liquid so the filling is not overly wet.
Special supplies needed
- Large pot to boil the noodles
- Bowl, strainer and cheesecloth to drain the ricotta
- Mixing bowl and pastry bag, for filling the manicotti. If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can use a zipper seal plastic bag with the tip cut off – but it won’t be quite so easy.
- 9×13” oven-safe pan or baking dish for baking the manicotti
Chef’s Tip – Do not fully cook the manicotti according to the box directions. Instead, boil them in salted water for two to three minutes less than the instructions – you want them flexible enough to fill, but not so soft that they tear as you fill them. Drain and rinse with cold water and set aside. (Note that they will finish cooking in the oven.)
How do I make Classic Manicotti?
- Drain ricotta in cheesecloth over a strainer and bowl.
- Par cook manicotti noodles in boiling salted water. (See Chef’s Tip.)
- Saute onions and garlic in olive oil. Set aside to cool.
- Make filling by combining drained ricotta, cooked onions and garlic, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, eggs, herbs and spices.
- Fill manicotti by piping the cheese with a pastry bag.
- Lay filled manicotti in pan coated with sauce. Pour more sauce over the center of each and top with more mozzarella and Parmesan
- Bake then top with more parsley and serve.
Frequently asked Questions
Can I make manicotti ahead of time? Yes – you can assemble, cover and refrigerate until ready to bake. Just let sit out for 30 minutes before baking.
How do I store leftovers? Store covered in the refrigerator for up to three days.
How do I reheat leftovers? Fully-cooked manicotti reheats well in the microwave.
Can I freeze? You can freeze the uncooked manicotti (just be sure your baking dish or pan is freezer and oven safe). Then, thaw and bake according to the recipe instructions.
You may like these other Italian Classic recipes:
1 16-ounce tub whole milk ricotta cheese
1 8-ounce box ribbed manicotti (14 tubes per box)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup sweet onion, diced
2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced fine
2 whole eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup plus two tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano, or half that of dried
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, or half that of dried
1 24-ounce jar marinara sauce, or see here for homemade Marinara recipe
Lay out a piece of cheesecloth 18 inches square and scrape the tub of ricotta into the center.
Pull the sides up and tie the top with twine.
Place a strainer over a bowl and set the filled cheesecloth into the center. Place another smaller bowl over the cheesecloth bundle to weight it down. I used a few raw sweet potatoes I had but any weight will do including full cans of any product.
Put this in the refrigerator and let the cheese drain with the weighted top for at least three hours but longer is better. You could also drain overnight.
While the cheese drains, place a large pot of water on to boil and once boiling, add a teaspoon of salt then gently add all 14 manicotti tubes and boil seven minutes only. The box says nine minutes but only boil seven. Pour into a colander to drain then run under cold water to cool.
Also cook the onions in garlic by putting olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook for eight minutes. Add garlic and cook for two more minutes.
Remove pan to cool.
After draining the ricotta, discard liquid and pour drained ricotta into a large bowl.
Add the cooked onions and garlic along with two beaten eggs, one cup of the mozzarella cheese, one cup of the Parmesan cheese, ¼ cup of the chopped parsley, salt, pepper, oregano and basil and stir to combine.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Spread one cup of the marinera sauce in the bottom of a 9X13 baking dish.
Cut the end off of a 16-ounce disposable pastry bag wide enough to dispense the filling but small enough to fit into the end of each manicotti tube. Fill with half the filling.
Dry off the cooked manicotti tubes and start filling each one by inserting the pastry bag half way and squeezing to the end. Turn, and fill the other half the same way. Repeat for 12 tubes, refilling the bag as needed. As you fill, pick out the best 12 tubes out of the 14. There always ends up being a few that split which is why you cook all 14 tubes.
As you fill each tube, lay them in two rows over the sauced pan. My pan was slightly oval so I laid the rows from side to side but you could lay end to end.
Pour the remaining sauce down the center of each row, using all of the sauce.
Sprinkle on ½ cup of mozzarella and ½ cup of Parmesan over the sauce.
Place a piece of parchment over the baking dish then wrap tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove foil and parchment and broil for a few minutes to brown the tops then sprinkle on the remaining two tablespoons of chopped parsley and serve.
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