Cheesy Baked Manicotti is a hearty dinner that you can make ahead! Manicotti pasta shells are stuffed with a four-cheese filling, topped with a savory meat sauce and cheese, and baked until bubbling hot. The best part? You don’t have to boil the pasta first! It makes the prep so much easier.
This time of year, we can all do with a little less hustle and bustle, don’t you think? So say hello to your new favorite cheese manicotti recipe. It’s a hearty stuffed pasta dinner that happens to be my favorite low-fuss manicotti recipe. It’s got a few tricks and shortcuts up its sleeve.
You don’t have to boil the pasta first – just stuff the dry manicotti shells, place them in the baking dish, top them with sauce, and they come out of the oven perfectly cooked. It makes the prep so much easier!
We’re also using jarred marinara sauce. There are so many good-quality ones available these days -it’s a no-brainer. Just simmer it up with some Italian sausage and a few seasonings, and the sauce is ready to go.
It’s also make-ahead friendly, so go ahead and make it, stick it in the fridge, and bake it the next night.
It might be a little simpler than other recipes, but it’s still so, so good. Cheesy stuffed pasta topped with hearty meat sauce and, yes, more cheese – it’s top-notch comfort food.
How to Make It
If you’re ready for some serious baked pasta, this recipe is for you. Manicotti shells stuffed with a four-cheese filling and baked with a savory Italian sausage meat sauce. If you’re feeling fancy, add a crisp green salad and a few slices of garlic toast on the side – I think you’re going to love this cozy winter dinner.
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Four Cheese Manicotti with Meat Sauce
This cheesy baked manicotti recipe has a couple of shortcuts that take an otherwise fussy dish to a deliciously simple level. Plus, you can make it ahead to make life even easier.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 60 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Yield: 14 stuffed manicotti with sauce 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Bake
- Cuisine: Italian-American
- 1 (8-ounce) box manicotti
- 1 pound Italian sausage
- 1 (22-ounce) jar marinara sauce
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish
- 16 ounces ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning or dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups shredded Asiago cheese
- 2 cup shredded mozzarella, divided
- 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Brown the sausage in a large pan over medium heat. Add the marinara and parsley and stir to combine. Adjust the heat to low while you prepare the manicotti.
- Mix the ricotta cheese, egg, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper with 2 cups of the asiago cheese, 1 ½ cups of the mozzarella, and 1 ½ cups of the Parmesan. Reserve the rest of the mozzarella and Parmesan for sprinkling over the top of the stuffed pasta and sauce.
- Coat the bottom of a 9×13” baking pan with a thin layer of the meat sauce. Stuff each uncooked manicotti (see note) with the cheese filling. Place them in a single layer in the prepared pan.
- Pour the meat sauce over the top of the stuffed manicotti and spread it over the top of the pasta so it’s covered. Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella cheese and Parmesan over the top.
- Cover the pan with foil and bake the manicotti for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake it for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the extra parsley over the top for garnish. Let it stand for a few minutes at room temperature before serving.
You don’t have to boil the pasta first. Just stuff each manicotti shell with the filling – once you cover them with the sauce and cheese, they will cook in the oven.
When I stuff manicotti, I take small spoonfuls of the filling and press it into the shells with my fingers. I’ve tried piping it, but the filling is very thick, and you end up wasting some of the filling because it gets stuck in the bag.
There is enough filling to fill 14 manicotti. I haven’t had a problem with the filling running out of the shells while they bake – it’s pretty thick, and the egg holds it all together, so it doesn’t melt too much. So, go ahead and stuff the shells completely full with the filling – you don’t need to leave space at the ends. There is a picture in the post if you want to see what the dry shells look like stuffed with filling.
You can assemble the manicotti a day ahead. Get them in the pan, cover them with the sauce, and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Tightly cover the pan with foil and refrigerate it until you’re ready to bake it. Leave it out at room temperature while you preheat the oven. You may need to add an extra five minutes of baking time, as well.
For more tips, tricks, and variations, see the recipe post!
- Serving Size: 1 manicotti with sauce
- Calories: 375
- Sugar: 3.1g
- Sodium: 989.2mg
- Fat: 21.9g
- Saturated Fat: 10.6g
- Unsaturated Fat: 10.1g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 18.2g
- Fiber: 1.8g
- Protein: 25.3g
- Cholesterol: 74.7mg
Keywords: stuffed manicotti, cheese manicotti, baked manicotti recipe
The nutrition is an estimate only. It was calculated using Nutrifox, an online nutrition calculator.
More Baked Pastas
It’s easy to switch up the ingredients in this recipe to give it a twist!
Meat: I love Italian sausage because it’s loaded with flavor – you don’t have to add much to it, but you can swap it for ground beef, ground turkey, or even ground chicken.
Marinara sauce: I love Rao’s Homemade brand, but choose your favorite jarred sauce or use your own homemade marinara. You need a little less than three cups.
I love that you don’t have to boil the pasta first for this recipe! It’s so much easier to stuff dry manicotti instead of cooked ones. I stuff them full with the cheese mixture and then place them in the pan. I use my fingers to stuff the shells – it’s easier than trying to pipe it, and you don’t waste any of the filling.
Make sure the pasta is covered with the sauce. You may need to spread the sauce over the pasta with a spatula. If the pasta is not completely covered, it will end up undercooked and really chewy.
Don’t forget to cover the pan with foil before you bake the pasta. This traps all of the heat and moisture so the pasta cooks evenly. I like to take the foil off in the last 10 minutes so the sauce can thicken up a bit.
If you have leftovers, they will keep in the refrigerator for several days. They also freeze well – just pop them in a freezer-safe airtight container. They’ll keep for a month or two. When you want to reheat them from frozen, let the manicotti and meat sauce thaw in the fridge and then warm them up in the microwave.
I hope you love this pasta recipe! If you’re craving comfort food, it’s a great one to try.
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This manicotti with meat sauce recipe, photos, and post was updated from the archives. It was first published in December 2012.