Comfort food at its finest, there’s nothing quite like Cheesy Spinach Stuffed Manicotti for a cozy meal! Tender pasta, homemade ricotta filling, chopped spinach, and a simple tomato sauce make this meal a masterpiece.
A Traditional Pasta Dinner Everyone Will Love!
Does your weekly menu include an Italian night? I love adding home-style Italian dishes to my menus. Everyone loves a good pasta dinner, and it makes the perfect ending to a stressful day: saucy, cheesy, and easy to love.
Take this spinach-stuffed manicotti, for example. With a light cheese filling and decadent cheesy topping, it’s a warm and filling recipe that no picky eater can resist! Even the chopped spinach becomes a little luxurious when stuffed into cheesy pasta tubes and gently baked in zesty tomato sauce.
By the way, if you want a simpler recipe for manicotti, try this easy recipe for The Best Cheese Manicotti!
What’s the Difference Between Stuffed Shells and Stuffed Manicotti?
Stuffed shells and manicotti are very similar – each dish is a scrumptious mixture of tasty pasta, rich cheese filling, and intensely flavorful sauce. Stuffed shells are made with large, seashell-shaped pasta, while manicotti are made with tube-shaped pasta. Shells hold a lot of filling, somewhat like a dumpling, while manicotti also hold a generous amount but in an even shape that’s easy to cut into bite-sized pieces.
For the BEST stuffed shells, make my Lasagna Stuffed Pasta Shells ASAP.
Even a dish like spinach-stuffed manicotti doesn’t have to be complicated! Check out the ingredient list, and see how simple these items are. You probably already have most of them on hand.
- Pasta: Uncooked manicotti or cannelloni pasta tubes.
- Ricotta Cheese: This fresh, mild cheese is the base for the filling mixture.
- Parmesan: Freshly grated parmesan is best, but you can also use pre-grated.
- Spinach: I like to use frozen chopped spinach because it’s convenient. Defrost it and drain it well before adding it to the filling.
- Egg: One whole egg helps bind the filling together.
- Garlic Powder: For a savory, intense flavor with no hassle.
- Italian Seasoning: This flavorful herb blend is so handy – it goes with almost everything! If you don’t happen to have any Italian seasoning on hand, you can use other herbs instead, like a mix of basil and oregano.
- Salt & Pepper
- Tomato Sauce: Tomato sauce or marinara sauce are my favorite for manicotti.
- Mozzarella: A layer of shredded mozzarella gives the dish its stretchy, cheesy topping.
- Fresh Basil: For garnish.
What Is the Difference Between Cheese Manicotti and Canneloni?
You might be wondering if manicotti and cannelloni are the same thing, especially since the ingredients list includes an option to use cannelloni instead of manicotti pasta. Technically, these two pasta shapes are a little different.
Manicotti are slightly bigger and have ridges that help capture all that sauce. Cannelloni pasta is usually made with cheese filling and sauce like manicotti, but the pasta tubes are smaller and don’t have ridges.
How to Make Spinach Stuffed Manicotti
Making homemade spinach-stuffed manicotti is actually a fairly simple process – all you really need is a little bit of time.
- Pre-Cook the Pasta. The first thing to do is make the pasta. While you bring the water to a boil, set your oven to preheat to 375°F. Once the water boils, add the pasta, and cook it according to the package directions until it’s al dente. Drain the pasta, rinse it with cold water, and set it aside.
- Make the Spinach and Cheese Filling. Next, combine your ricotta cheese, Parmesan, chopped spinach, egg, and seasonings in a big mixing bowl. Stir this well to make a smooth mixture.
- Fill the Manicotti. You can use a spoon, but a piping bag is easier. However you do it, stuff the cooled manicotti with the spinach cheese mixture.
- Arrange the Manicotti and Sauce in the Baking Dish. Spread a layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Arrange the manicotti in the dish, then top it with more sauce so the pasta is fully covered.
- Add a Cheese Topping. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese on top of the tomato sauce.
- Bake the Pasta. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil, and bake for 25 minutes. Then take the foil off, and bake uncovered for another 10 or 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
- Cool and Serve. Let the baked manicotti cool for several minutes. Serve, and enjoy!
Tips for Success
The only thing that could make this spinach stuffed manicotti better? A few helpful tips to make the process smooth and simple! And I’ve got you covered.
- Un-Mushy Pasta: Keep in mind that even though you pre-cook the pasta, they’ll still cook a little more in the sauce. That’s why it’s helpful to undercook them just slightly in the water, and let them finish up in the sauce without getting overcooked and mushy.
- Saucy Sauce: On a similar note, the sauce may seem a little thin when you put it in the oven, but that’s okay! Some of the liquid will evaporate in the oven, and some will absorb into the pasta, so it will thicken up just right.
- Tomato Sauce: I like pizza sauce for this recipe, but you can use any tomato sauce that you like. Each one will add its own twist, from marinara to spaghetti sauce to spicy vodka sauce! Or make your own homemade sauce for an extra-special meal.
- Piping Bag: If you don’t have a piping bag, you can easily make a substitute by placing the filling mixture in a zip-top bag, and then snipping off one of the bottom corners. Squeeze the filling through the hole for a quick, easy “piping bag.”
Yummy Serving Suggestions
Classic sides and starters like salad and breadsticks are my favorite to serve with pasta. Try pairing this easy stuffed manicotti recipe with one or more of these yummy recipes!
- Salad: Serve a classic Caesar salad or garden salad, or go big with this gorgeous Shrimp Salad with Avocados. It would make a perfect starter for a special meal!
- Garlic Knots: This recipe for Easy Garlic Knots starts with refrigerated, store-bought dough for the easiest prep ever! These comfy, cozy rolls are sure to disappear from your table in a flash!
- Asparagus: This bright green veggie is always in style, so if you want to round out the menu with a healthy side, try making some Garlic Butter Roasted Asparagus. It’s so easy and good for you, too.
Storing, Freezing, and Reheating Manicotti
Stuffed manicotti is a classic meal, but it does take a bit of time and effort. Thankfully, that time and effort doesn’t have to go to waste – it freezes beautifully, and is a great dish to double so that you can freeze some for later.
- Storing: Cooked manicotti can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Make sure to cover the baking dish tightly or transfer the manicotti to food storage containers. I like glass containers because they don’t stain.
- Freezing: Freeze the cooled manicotti with the sauce for up to three months. Pack it in airtight containers, freezer bags, or in a baking dish that’s been tightly wrapped in two layers of foil. Thaw it out in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
- Reheating: You can reheat leftover manicotti in the oven at 350°F until heated through.
Cheesy Spinach Stuffed Manicotti
- 8 ounce manicotti, or cannelloni tube pasta (uncooked)
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- ⅔ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and well drained
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 24 ounces tomato sauce
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- fresh basil, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Cook the manicotti according to the package directions until they're al dente. Drain and rinse the pasta with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, spinach, egg, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt, and ground black pepper. Mix everything together until well combined.
- Using a piping bag or a spoon to stuff the cooled manicotti with the spinach cheese mixture. You can use a small spoon to help push the mixture into the pasta tubes.
- Spread a layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish.
- Place the stuffed manicotti in the baking dish. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the top of the stuffed manicotti, making sure that it is fully covered.
- Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese on top.
- Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes.
- Remove the aluminum foil and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
- Remove from oven and let cool for several minutes.
- Garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve.
- Storing: Cooked manicotti can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Freezing: Freeze manicotti with the sauce for up to three months in airtight containers, freezer bags, or a baking dish tightly wrapped in two layers of plastic or foil. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
- Reheating: You can reheat leftover manicotti in the oven at 350°F until heated through.
- Tomato Sauce: I like to use pizza sauce for this recipe, but you can use any tomato sauce or pasta sauce you like.
- Spinach: Either fresh or frozen spinach will work for this recipe. If you use frozen spinach, please thaw and drain it before using it.
- Cheese: You can substitute other types of cheese for the ricotta and Parmesan, such as cottage cheese or feta cheese. Make sure to use a mild, moist cheese to substitute for ricotta, and a flavorful, dry cheese to substitute for the parmesan.