This easy Manicotti recipe is the perfect make ahead and freezer friendly casserole! Filled with ricotta cheese, mozzarella, Parmesan and seasoned with basil pesto, it’s a hit with the whole family!
I feel like we’ve been eating a lot of pasta and casseroles this winter but I’m not mad about it.
This baked Manicotti recipe has quickly climbed our list of favorites because it has pretty much all of our favorite things:
- tomato sauce
- more cheese
I mean, what’s not to love?
Pasta bakes are one of the easiest meals to make ahead (and freeze!), and one of the easiest meals for me to get my kids to eat, so it’s win-win around here.
This Manicotti recipe is pretty standard, with one thing that I think really makes it pop — a spoonful of basil pesto in the filling.
The basil pesto adds such a great punch of herby flavor, without being overpowering and without having to add a whole bunch of different herbs and spices. It’s one of my favorite secret ingredients!
What is Manicotti?
Manicotti is a long, large, tubular pasta that is usually cooked and stuffed with a ricotta cheese filling similar to these Ricotta Stuffed Shells.
Baked, cheese stuffed Manicotti is one of the best comfort foods, and it’s also perfect for making ahead to enjoy on a busy weeknight!
There are so many ways to change things up if you want to, though! See my list below on how to make this recipe your own.
Variations on this stuffed Manicotti:
- You can add cooked, shredded chicken (this Crockpot Shredded Chicken or this Instant Pot Shredded Chicken are great in here!), cooked ground beef, or crumbled and cooked Italian sausage.
- You can swap out the cheeses for other varieties for a spin that’s more to your liking!
- Not a fan of pesto? That’s fine. Leave it out and add in some of your favorite Italian herbs instead: basil, oregano and parsley are my go-to’s.
- Swap out the sauce — use a prepared meat sauce, Alfredo sauce, or one of your other favorites!
Do you have to cook Manicotti shells before filling them?
You can buy oven-ready manicotti noodles if you can find them, but I prefer the texture of regular noodles unless I’m really pressed for time.
You can swap the regular noodles for oven ready in this recipe, just keep an eye on the casserole as it bakes, and if it starts to look dry, add a drizzle (a couple tablespoons) of water around the edge (yes, water! Trust me).
It’s also important to keep the noodles covered in sauce, and cover the pan while baking if you are using oven ready noodles, so that everything cooks evenly.
How to store Manicotti:
In the fridge:
You can prepare this baked manicotti up to the point of baking, then simply cover and refrigerate up to 4 days before baking and serving as directed.
Perfect for your weekend meal prep!
How to freeze manicotti:
You can prepare this manicotti recipe up to the point of baking then cover tightly (I prefer a layer of plastic wrap and foil, but a lid will suffice if it is tight fitting).
Then you can thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake as directed, or bake from frozen. For best results, thawing before baking is recommended.
If you know you are making ahead to freeze, only cook your pasta about half way, so they are slightly softened. This will prevent the pasta from becoming mushy in the freezer.
More pasta recipes you’ll love:
- Healthy One Pot Spaghetti and Meat Sauce
- Instant Pot Chicken Alfredo Pasta
- Chicken Pesto Pasta
- One-Pot BBQ Chicken and Bacon Pasta
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- 12 manicotti pasta shells
- 2 cups Ricotta cheese 1 475g container
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese divided
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese divided
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon basil pesto
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2.5 cups marinara sauce
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add manicotti and boil for the 7-8 minutes, until almost tender.
- Drain and rinse manicotti 2-3 times under cold water until cooled to room temperature.
- In a medium bowl, stir together ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, ¼ cup Parmesan, egg, pesto, salt and pepper.
- Place ricotta mixture in a large piping bag or large freezer bag and snip the end.
- Lightly grease a 9×13′ baking dish and spread 1 cup of marinara sauce in the bottom.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Fill each manicotti shell with ricotta cheese mixture and line up on top of the marinara sauce in the baking dish, dividing the ricotta evenly between the 12 manicotti.
- Top the filled manicotti with the remaining 1.5 cups sauce, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, and ¼ cup Parmesan.
- Lightly grease a piece of foil or lid and cover the baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes until heated through and pasta is tender. Serve.
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