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Perfect Manicotti

Perfect Manicotti consists of tender pasta shells, stuffed with a savory ricotta and mozarella cheese mixture, then topped with a rich tomato sauce!

Manicotti shells stuffed with savory ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, topped with San Marzano pasta sauce

Manicotti is an American-Italian dish that consists of ricotta-stuffed pasta shells served with a red pasta sauce. This is an ideal “Italian” dish for vegetarians or for those who prefer a lighter fare.

There’s a bit of confusion around the difference between Manicotti and Cannelloni, but it’s really simple.

What’s the difference between Manicotti and Cannelloni?

In short, it’s all about the type of dough used for the tubular shaped vessel. In Italy, Manicotti is referred to as a type of light crepe that is filled with cheese, beef, chicken or a combination.

Conversely, Cannelloni is a more dense, tubular pasta, also filled with deliciousness.

In America, many think the term Manicotti usually implies a cheese filled tubular pasta and Cannelloni refers to a meat filled tubular pasta.

In either case, we’re wrong. It’s all about the dough…Manicotti is a stuffed, light crepe and Cannelloni is a firmer, tubular pasta. If you need more confusion, Cannellini is a bean…

And now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move onto this “Manicotti” recipe:)

Savory ricotta and mozzarella stuffed Manicotti shells on white plate

Is Manicotti difficult to make?

What looks like a labor intensive dish is actually very simple. First, make the San Marzano sauce, then make the Ricotta filling.

Boil the noodles and allow them to cool a bit. Pipe the filling into the tube shaped pasta, top with sauce and bake 15 minutes. It takes about 30 minutes in all.

What is Ricotta cheese?

Ricotta is a mild, fluffy cheese that consists of the whey proteins from the cheese-making process.

Best way to stuff the tubular pasta shells?

One of the easiest ways to make perfect Manicotti is to pipe the filling into the shells using a medium sized storage bag.  

Place the Ricotta mixture in a piping bag (or plastic storage bag), snip the corner and squeeze the cheese filling into both ends of the shell.

Stuffed Manicotti Pasta Shells in baking dish

Can I make Manicotti in advance?

There are a two easy ways to make this delicious Italian family-favorite in advance. The first is to assemble and bake the dish in its entirety, cover and refrigerate.

The second way is to make the sauce, cheese filling and boil the noodles.

Store each separately in air tight containers in the fridge.

On the day of serving, allow the cheese mixture to come to room temperature, fill the shells, re-heat the sauce, assemble the dish and bake.

Manicotti topped with tomato sauce and cheese on white plate

Related recipes:


Fluffy ricotta cheese stuffed pasta shells with a savory San Marzano pasta sauce
5 from 3 votes
Course: Entree
Cuisine: American, Italian
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 14 stuffed pasta tubes
Author: Anecia Hero


  • 1 package Manicotti Shells (14 shells to a package)
  • 3-4 cups San Marzano pasta sauce (see recipe notes)

Cheese Filling

  • 30 oz. whole milk Ricotta cheese
  • 2 whole eggs lightly beaten
  • 2 cups mozzarella , divided (1/2 in cheese mixture; 1/2 on top if desired)
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley , finely chopped
  • 2 fresh basil leaves , finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper


  • Prepare the sauce (see notes)
  • Bring a large stockpot of water to boil;
  • Make cheese filling: Add all ingredients into medium bowl; combine well
  • Place manicotti shells into water; cook for 7 minutes
  • Place drained shells onto wax paper and allow to cool
  • Put cheese mixture into piping bag or zip bag; snip corner; pipe filling into both ends of each shell
  • Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking dish; place stuffed shells in baking dish
  • Pour a little sauce over shells
  • Bake for 10 minutes; remove from oven; add mozzarella cheese; place back in oven until cheese melts; garnish with fresh parsley and/or basil

Nutrition Estimate

Serving: 2manicottiCalories: 285kcalCarbohydrates: 23gProtein: 17gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 49mgSodium: 543mgPotassium: 310mgFiber: 2gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 686IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 303mgIron: 1mg
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