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This No Boil Baked Manicotti Recipe is a Sunday night dinner worthy meal that's easy enough to throw together on a busy weeknight! The secret to getting this manicotti recipe on the table in just over an hour? Don't boil the manicotti noodles before filling them! That's right friends! You can prep this cheesy vegetarian dish in just 10 minutes!!
Manicotti vs. Cannelloni
- Manicotti and cannelloni are different noodles but can be filled with the same cheesy ricotta filling! You can use either for this recipe and you'll end up with very similar results.
- Manicotti noodles are large tubes of pasta that are cut at an angle on each end. To me, they look like large penne noodles. Manicotti has ridges on the outside giving them a very distinct texture that lets the sauce nestle into every nook and cranny of the noodle.
- Cannelloni is traditionally made with thin sheets of fresh pasta that are wrapped around a cheesy filling, creating a very similar shape to manicotti, but with a different process. The ends of cannelloni are also straight across instead of cut at an angle like manicotti. I've even heard of folks using lasagna noodles to make cannelloni which I'm sure has some Italians rolling over in their graves!
- However, you'll most likely see cannelloni as an already rolled, tubular dried noodle in a box that you can purchase at your grocery store or on Amazon.
- The key difference between manicotti and cannelloni noodles is that manicotti has distinct ridges while cannelloni noodles are smooth in texture. But they are essentially both large tubular pasta that will taste great when stuffed with a cheesy spinach filling and slathered in spaghetti sauce.
Manicotti vs. Stuffed Shells
- Another familiar pasta shape that's often stuffed is jumbo shells! This is my favorite No Boil Stuffed Shells Recipe - I'm sure you'll love it too!
- Stuffed shells are basically just huge shell noodles that are stuffed with whatever you'd like - cheese, spinach, ricotta - and baked in spaghetti sauce with more cheese on top. They are normally boiled before they're stuffed but as you'll see in my easy Stuffed Shells Recipe, the step of boiling is really not necessary!
- Manicotti, cannelloni, and stuffed shells are basically just different pasta shapes that can be filled with the same filling. Honestly, I'd be hard-pressed to decide which one is my favorite because they are all delicious and I'm not one to discriminate against any kind of noodle!
You'll Love This
- It's a NO BOIL pasta dinner. You might be wondering if you need to boil the manicotti noodles before baking this delicious pasta dish... I have good news for you - the answer is NO! The sauce/water mixture is going to do all the work for you - which means fewer dishes for you to wash AND less prep time. You'll end up with perfectly al dente pasta; no boiling required!
- The flavors are amazing. The cheesy spinach filling is the star in this baked manicotti! The trifecta of basil pesto, herbs, and spices comes together to give the filling a boost of bold flavor and that nutty Parmesan rounds everything out. Bland, boring stuffed pasta dishes are a thing of the past with this flavor-forward cheese manicotti!
- It takes about an hour from start to finish. The best part about this spinach manicotti is that it screams SUNDAY NIGHT DINNER but it's filled with staple ingredients and takes just a little over an hour to prepare. You can even make it ahead of time and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours before baking.
Mix spaghetti sauce and water until well combined. Set aside. Add chopped spinach, ricotta, half the mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, pesto, oregano, garlic powder, and a couple large pinches of salt and pepper to a large bowl.
Mix until well combined.
Spread half the spaghetti sauce mixture in an even layer in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Transfer filling to a piping bag and fill noodles. Nestle filled manicotti into the baking dish.
Top manicotti with remaining sauce and shredded mozzarella.
Cover pan tightly with foil and bake for about 50 minutes, then remove foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes. Let rest and garnish with fresh chopped parsley and grated Parmesan and enjoy!
How to Stuff Manicotti
- In this stuffed manicotti recipe, you do NOT need to cook the manicotti shells before baking. It's easier to stuff the manicotti without breaking it when the noodles are UNCOOKED. It's also easier to work with uncooked noodles than try to manipulate and fill boiled limp noodles! The sauce does all the work in cooking the pasta in this dish so that you don't have to.
- Transfering the cheesy filling to a piping bag or Ziploc bag will make the filling process super easy! Then when you're ready to fill, just snip off the end of the piping bag with sharp scissors.
- Make sure the opening that you cut on your piping bag is about as large as the opening of the manicotti noodle or just slightly smaller so you can easily pipe the filling into the noodles.
- If you don't have a piping bag you can totally use a small spoon or spatula (or even just your hands) as well.
- Pipe the filling into one end of the noodle, then flip the noodle and fill the other side. This technique will ensure that the entire inside of the noodle is filled.
- Don't overstuff the noodles. There is just enough filling to fill all 14 of the noodles. If you overstuff them, chances are good you won't have enough filling to fill all of them.
- If you're using jarred spaghetti sauce, pour your spaghetti sauce into a medium bowl. Add 1 cup water to the jar, twist the lid back on, and gently shake to loosen any extra sauce. Then pour the water from the jar into the medium bowl and mix to combine the sauce and water. This will ensure that you clean every last bit of sauce out of the jar!
- Don't worry if it looks like too much sauce when you assemble the cheese manicotti. Trust me it's not! The moisture from the sauce/water mixture is what's going to cook the noodles so the baked manicotti needs to be real saucy in the beginning. After about an hour in the oven, a lot of the sauce will be absorbed into the pasta.
- It may also look like there's still a lot of liquid after you bake the manicotti and remove it from the oven. That's why it's important to let it rest after it's baked (just like you would with lasagna or meatloaf). This will allow the juices time to redistribute throughout the dish and ensure that you end up with a perfectly creamy filling instead of one that's dried out and grainy.
Family Favorite Pasta
- Lazy Ravioli Lasagna
- Garlic Butter Noodles
- Easy Vegetarian No Boil Lasagna
- 20 MinuteBaked Tortellini
- Creamy Balsamic Mushroom Pasta
This recipe was originally shared in May 2018. It has been updated to include process shots, tips for making the dish perfectly and an improved recipe in December 2020.