Savor the three cheeses and subtle spices in this delicious Cheese Manicotti. This classic Italian dish is surprisingly easy to make, you don’t even have to precook the noodles. Each bite has melted cheese stuffed inside tender manicotti noodles smothered with pasta sauce. Add some parmesan garlic toast and dinner is served.
Sharing a family favorite recipe with you is partly why I’m here, but this one is extra special. Back when I was about 11 years old, I became best friends with Cristi. Then our moms became friends, which we thought was so cool. So what happened was Cristi’s mom (Marion), gave my mom (Rose), this recipe for cheese manicotti way back then.
I still have the original recipe written in my mom’s pretty script with Marion’s name in the top corner. She did that so she knew who gave it to her.
So in honor of the love and enduring friendship of us 4 women (my mom in heaven), and to all women who share family favorites, I gladly share with you our cheese manicotti recipe.
What size dish should I use?
The box of manicotti shells I usually buy (Barilla) holds 14 shells, which fits nicely in a 13″ x 9″ dish. If you have a favorite smaller dish, however, just make sure they fit in a single layer, using a second dish if necessary.
Try a dry run; place the empty shells into the dish and see if they fit. Sometimes I use a smaller oval dish I love, and use a second dish for whatever doesn’t fit.
Ok, so grab everything, including your dish and let’s get started.
How do I fill these things?
First, pour about a cup of pasta sauce in the baking dish, then start mixing all the cheesy ingredients together in a small bowl.
To fill the hard dry shells push the open end of a shell into the cheese, which get’s about an inch of filling in there, then I use a butter knife to scoop up more cheese and slop it in from both ends. It’s not pretty, but it gets the job done.
The cheese mixture sticks together nicely, so a butter knife or spoon works great. Funny thing is, even though I love decorating cakes, I still haven’t tried filling a bag and piping it in. Let me know if you try this, ok? I’m a creature of habit; it’s the way Mom and I always filled them.
Set each filled shell into the dish as you go. Once the shells are filled add a cup of water to the remaining pasta sauce that is still in the jar, and give it a shake (with the top on!).
Pour the sauce over the tops of the shells and cover with foil — the pasta sauce bubbles and splatters as it bakes.
Bake in a 350° preheated oven for 1 hour and you’re done.
A nice option is to add some thin slices of mozzarella on top. Add them about 15 minutes before the manicotti is done, but remember to recover with the foil.
- 8 oz. box manicotti shells, uncooked
- 16 oz. mozzarella cheese ball
- 1/2 lb. tub ricotta cheese
- 1/3 cup Jack cheese, shredded (or small cottage cheese)
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1 tsp. parsley flakes
- salt and pepper
- 24 oz. jar pasta sauce
- 1 1/2 cups water, divided
- Preheat oven to 350°. Pour 1 cup pasta sauce and 1/2 cup water in 13 x 9 baking dish. Set aside.
- Shred half the mozzarella cheese ball and slice the remaining half. Set the slices aside.
- In a small bowl, stir together the shredded mozzarella, ricotta, Jack cheese, egg, oregano, parsley flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Fill each shell with cheese mixture and place in dish. Add 1 cup water to the pasta sauce still in the jar and pour evenly over shells.
- Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Add slices of mozzarella on top, recover with foil. Continue baking for 15 minutes more. Enjoy!
What do I serve with this?
Cheese Manicotti is delicious alone, but adding some Parmesan Garlic Toast (to slop up the pasta sauce with) is a tasty addition.
Craving some chocolate after that delicious meal? Here’s a quick and easy recipe for some Chocolate Cake Mix Cookies.
Your table will look beautiful and your bellies will be full.
Happy cooking and have a blessed day.
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