Four cheese baked manicotti is Italian-American comfort food heaven! Large tubes of pasta are stuffed with a pillowy combination of creamy ricotta, melty mozzarella, salty pecorino, and nutty Parmigiano Reggiano for the ultimate 4 cheese filling. Smothered with sweet marinara, and some extra mozzarella, it is baked until bubbly and brimming with goodness.
This is a meatless baked manicotti recipe. If you'd like to use a meat sauce, this one in our pasta al forno recipe would be perfect.
Note This recipe is part of our Italian-American Sunday Dinner series on Youtube. For all the episodes check out this Italian Sunday dinner playlist.
Cannelloni vs manicotti
Cannelloni and manicotti are basically one and the same. The distinction is that in Italy, cannelloni (which means "large reeds") are often made from thin pasta sheets and then rolled with a variety of meat fillings. I usually associate cannelloni with meat-filled pasta topped with a creamy bechamel sauce.
Manicotti (which translates to "sleeves" or "small muffs") pasta is an Italian-American invention. In America, crepes or dried pasta tubes such as the Barilla version in the ingredients pictured below, are used for manicotti. Fun fact: in Italy rolled crepes are called crespelle, not manicotti.
The tubes, which are similar to a very large ridged ziti, or paccheri, are often filled with ricotta, mozzarella, egg, and herbs. They're covered in tomato sauce with lots of mozzarella cheese and baked until golden and bubbly. It's a popular dish in the northeastern part of America where most of the Italian-American population is of southern Italian descent.
The ingredients you will need for this recipe are tomato sauce (see this Sunday sauce recipe or a quick marinara), mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan cheese, Pecorino Romano cheese, parsley, 2 eggs, and the pasta.
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Begin by boiling the pasta tubes to very al dente and let cool on a rack as shown. Alternatively, you can run them under water quickly. This is the only time I suggest running pasta underwater because you need to handle the tubes while cool. The pasta should be quite firm because they are still going to be cooked for another 20-30 minutes in the oven. The same technique was applied in this classic baked ziti recipe.
- In a large bowl, mix 1 pound of ricotta, ⅔ pound of shredded mozzarella, ½ cup minced parsley, ½ cup grated Pecorino and a ½ cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Test the filling and adjust salt and pepper to taste. When satisfied with the taste add in 2 eggs and mix once more.
- Add the mixture into a pastry bag or plastic bag as shown. Cut a hole just large enough to squeeze the ricotta filling out.
- Coat a large baking pan with a thick layer of sauce. This will help prevent sticking.
- Fill all the manicotti tubes with the ricotta stuffing and place them in the pan. Do not stack. If required, use two pans. Layer more sauce on top of the pasta and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese and if you want some more grated parm or Pecorino.
- Bake at 400f for 20-30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and slightly brown on top.
- Adjust salt and pepper to taste before adding the egg. The Pecorino is very salty so adjust accordingly.
- Make sure the pasta is cooked very al dente and is cool to the touch before filling.
- If holding the manicotti and stuffing it at the same time proves difficult, you could place the tube in a long shot glass to keep it upright while filling.
- Another technique is to cut a slit vertically down the tube, place the filling in, roll back up, and place the slit side face down. Nobody will know the difference!
This is a great meal to make ahead. To reheat an already made leftover batch just use the microwave.
For an uncooked frozen batch, bake the whole frozen tray in the oven at 375-400f until completely cooked through. This takes around 70-90 minutes. Check to make sure it's heated all the way through before serving.
Related dishes you'll love
- Stuffed shells with ricotta and spinach
- Italian-American lasagna with meat sauce
- Authentic Italian meatballs and Sunday sauce recipe
- Beef braciole with raisins and pine nuts
If you like this recipe give it a share and leave a comment. We would love to know how you did and it’s nice to show others as well.
Follow us over on our YouTube channel where we are working to make every single recipe on this site into a full-length instructional video. The full baked manicotti YouTube video is below in the recipe card.
- 3 cups tomato sauce
- ½ pound manicotti pasta 'al dente'
- 1 pound ricotta
- 1 pound mozzarella shredded
- ½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano grated
- ½ cup Pecorino Romano grated
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup fresh parsley minced
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- kosher salt to taste
- Boil manicotti to very al dente, drain, and set aside to cool on a wire rack.
- Mix the ricotta, ⅔ of the mozzarella, the grated Parmigiano and Pecorino, and the minced parsley. Taste test and adjust salt and pepper levels. When satisfied, add 2 eggs and mix until smooth.
- Place the ricotta mixture into a plastic bag. With a scissor, remove just enough of the bag's corner and gently squeeze to fill the manicotti tubes.
- Add a thick layer of sauce to a baking pan and place the stuffed manicotti into the pan without stacking. Layer more sauce on top of the manicotti and sprinkle with the remaining shredded mozzarella.
- Bake at 400f for 20-30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and lightly golden. Enjoy!
- Adjust salt and pepper to taste before adding the egg. The pecorino is very salty so adjust accordingly.
- Any remaining ricotta can be saved for up to 2 days or used for another baked pasta recipe.
- Cook the pasta until very al dente. Let cool to the touch before filling.
- If holding the manicotti and stuffing it at the same time proves difficult you can place the tube in a long shot glass to keep it upright while filling.
- Alternatively cut a slit vertically down the tube, place the filling in, roll back up, and place the slit side face down. Nobody will know the difference!