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

Three Cheese Manicotti

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. 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

The Best Manicotti Recipe

What is manicotti, you may ask? It’s 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!

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, spinach with cheese. Baked with a marinara and a sprinkling of cheese, it’s total comfort food.

The Best Manicotti on a round white plate with a red handled fork

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 I serve with this Three Cheese Manicotti?

Close up of manicotti in a casserole dish
3 cheese manicotti featured image

Three Cheese Manicotti

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!

Ingredients

Crepe batter (or use 2 boxes manicotti shells):

  • 9 eggs 1 1/2 cups milk Big pinch of salt 1/2 + 1/3  cups flour
  • Put all ingredients in 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.

Tomato sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 1/2 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 1/2 cup water 1 teaspoon dried rosemary 2 teaspoons dried basil Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
  • Heat the olive oil in large pot.  Add onion and saute until soft but notarinara): 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.

Cheese Filling:

  • 1 tablespoon butter 2 tablespoon flour 1/2 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

Instructions

Put all crepe ingredients in 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.

Make tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in 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.

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.

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:

Spread a thin layer of sauce in two 9" x 13" baking dishes.

Brush an 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 1/4 cup to the hot pan, tilting the pan as you do so to cover the bottom evenly. Place over heat and cook until batter is set and 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.)

Brush the pan with more butter and make the next crepe. While it cooks spread about 1/4 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.

Alternatively, boil your pasta shells in well salted water following the package instructions. Drain, then cool until their not too hot to handle. Fill your shells using a spoon or piping bag. To have enough filling, do not over stuff.

You can wrap and freeze the manicotti at this point, and freeze the remaining sauce separately. Thaw completely before baking.

Preheat the oven to 350º. Bake manicotti until puffed and lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Let sit a few minutes. Reheat sauce. Serve with sauce and grated Parmesan.

Notes

Recipe courtesy of my foodie friend, Joe.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

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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