This outstanding Three Cheese Manicotti is topped with a homemade tomato sauce and is the only manicotti recipe you’ll need. Whether you use the crepe recipe to make homemade “shells” or boil up some store-bought manicotti pasta shells, you’ll hit a home run with this manicotti recipe.

The crepes provide a tender casing that’s out of this world, but when time is of the essence, even boxed pasta will create the Best Manicotti Recipe you’ve ever encountered!

Cheese Manicotti on a white plate with a lettuce salad.

Why You Must Make

  • I’ve made this marvelous cheese manicotti from scratch and it’s a delicious labor of love. I grew up making crepes with my mom in my childhood kitchen, so it wasn’t a daunting process.
  • Since the soft crepe shells made such an exquisite, tender casing for the 3 cheese filling, it was definitely worth the effort.
  • But with this encore recipe (this was originally shared in March 2011), I went the easier route and purchased manicotti shells. Either option is delicious.
  • With ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan, the trio of cheeses made for a fabulous filling. The ricotta provided a lightness, the mozzarella added the gooey cheese component, and the Parmesan added a sharp, nutty flavor.
Overhead view of 3 cheese manicotti in a casserole dish.

Recipe Tips

  • Make your crepes or cook your manicotti tubes al dente. Al dente is an Italian term that means “to the tooth.” The pasta shouldn’t be cooked until it’s mushy but instead, it should offer a slight resistance when bitten into. Many boxes of pasta, like the De Cecco brand, now give a cooking time and an al dente time.
  • PRO-Tip: If you precook your pasta, ensure the water is well salted. It should taste like seawater so the cooked pasta isn’t bland.
  • Use the homemade tomato sauce in my recipe but if you’re short on time, you can use your favorite jarred sauce.
  • PRO-Tip: Make sure your sauce is “saucy” enough to use uncooked pasta shells in this recipe. The pasta will need to absorb enough liquid to make them soft.
  • PRO-Tip: If you precook the pasta shells, don’t overcook them as they will absorb some liquid from the sauce and you don’t want them to get mushy.
  • Use a pastry bag with a large open tip or a large Ziploc bag with a corner cut off to pipe the cheese filling into the pasta.
  • Feel free to add cooked sausage or spinach to the cheese mixture. I would buy frozen chopped spinach, defrost it, and squeeze it dry before adding some of it to the filling.
  • Cover the baking dish with foil to cook. This will keep the cheese from getting too crusty.
The Best Manicotti on a round white plate with a red handled fork.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Manicotti?

Manicotti is an Italian-American dish traditionally made with crepes. The word manicotti means “muff” or “little sleeve” in Italian. You can see from the appearance of the pasta, that it could be a very little shirt sleeve!

What Other Manicotti Fillings Can You Use?

The fillings can vary. This three cheese manicotti is classic with the most basic filling. Besides just cheese, manicotti can be filled with beef and cheese, or chicken, sausage, or spinach with cheese. Baked with a marinara and a sprinkling of cheese, it’s total comfort food.

Can You Freeze Manicotti?

Yes, like lasagna, manicotti freezes well. Just wrap well in plastic, then foil to prevent frost or freezer burn. Next,  when you’re ready to cook, defrost in the refrigerator adding more time to compensate for the dish being cold. About 15 extra minutes will do.

What Should Be Served with Cheese Manicotti?

Here are four dishes that would be tasty paired with manicotti:
Homemade Garlic Bread
Roasted Green Beans
Broccoli with Lemon and Garlic
Tossed Orange Cherry Salad
Mediterranean Chopped Salad

Close up of manicotti in a casserole dish.

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3 cheese manicotti featured image

Three Cheese Manicotti Recipe

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 5 minutes
Yield 24 manicotti

Two ways to make this fabulous cheese manicotti! If you're in a rush, use pasta shells. If you have the time, try making your own crepes!


Crepe batter (or use 2 boxes manicotti shells):

  • 9 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • Big pinch of salt
  • ½ + ⅓  cups flour

Tomato sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups finely chopped onion
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 28-ounce cans plum tomatoes, pureed in a blender
  • 1 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • About ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • Salt, pepper and sugar to taste

Cheese Filling:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoon flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste
  • 2 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2+ cups freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1+ cup coarsely grated whole milk mozzarella
  • 2 eggs, beaten


  1. Put all crepe ingredients in a blender and mix, scraping down the sides as needed. Set aside in the refrigerator to rest for a couple of hours, so the flour will absorb the liquid. Skip this step if you're using purchased manicotti shells.
  2. Make tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large pot.  Add onion and saute until soft but not brown, 5-8 minutes. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and paste, and seasonings. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 30-40 minutes. Let cool.
  3. To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook over low heat, stirring, for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time. Bring to a boil, stirring. Turn heat to low and simmer, stirring, for 10 minutes. Season generously with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Let cool.
  4. Add the ricotta to the white sauce, and stir to combine. Add the other cheeses. Season to taste with more salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in the eggs.

To assemble:

  1. Spread a thin layer of sauce in two 9" x 13" baking dishes.
  2. Brush a 9-inch crepe pan, non-stick skillet, or cast iron skillet with butter. Heat over medium heat. Stir up the crepe batter (the flour settles to the bottom) and add approximately ¼ cup to the hot pan, tilting the pan as you do so to cover the bottom evenly. Place over heat and cook until the batter is set and the edges are beginning to brown. Don't flip. Loosen edges with a spatula and slide out, soft side up, onto your work surface. (The first crepe is often a flop...toss and try again.)
  3. Brush the pan with more butter and make the next crepe. While it cooks spread about ¼ cup filling in a sausage shape across the bottom of the first crepe and roll it up like an enchilada. Place seam side down in the pan. Continue making and filling crepes, stirring up the batter often and brushing the pan with butter as necessary, until the filling is used up. You should fill both pans.  Top each manicotti with a thin layer of sauce and a sprinkling of your extra mozzarella and Parmesan.
  4. Alternatively, boil your pasta shells in well-salted water following the package instructions. Drain, then cool until they are not too hot to handle. Fill your shells using a spoon or piping bag. To have enough filling, do not overstuff.
  5. You can wrap and freeze the manicotti at this point, and freeze the remaining sauce separately. Thaw completely before baking.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350º. Bake manicotti until puffed and lightly browned, about 25 minutes.
  7. Let the pan sit a few minutes. Reheat the sauce. Serve with sauce and grated Parmesan.


Recipe courtesy of my foodie friend, Joe.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

2 manicotti

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 440Total Fat: 25gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 229mgSodium: 638mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 4gSugar: 10gProtein: 25g


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