This homemade Manicotti pasta recipe is cheese baked perfection and easy to make with a flavorful filling packed with cheese, chicken and spinach. The yummy manicotti pasta shells have an easy to make meat filling that's cheesy chicken spinach deliciousness. These are great for feeding a crowd or a cozy night in.
These delicious Manicotti pasta shells are great year round but have a special warm coziness during the cooler months. Serve with our yummy Roasted Zucchini.
What I Love About It
I love how warm and cozy it is biting into a noodle stuffed with cheese, spinach, spices and chicken, covered in marinara sauce and cheese. I love that it looks fancy but it's pretty quick and easy to make. I love that this is a no boil recipe, to reduce steps. I love that it's a meal I can make and not listen to anyone complain- everyone enjoys it!
- manicotti pasta shells- no boiling ahead of time!
- shredded chicken
- marinara sauce
- cheeses for that yummy cheesy deliciousness
- cream cheese, mozzarella, parmesan and ricotta
- frozen spinach, thawed with the water squeezed out
- spices (can substitute Italian seasoning if desired)
- parsley, oregano, basil
- garlic powder
- red pepper flakes (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350* F. Wring out thawed spinach using a paper towel. In a large bowl put in the parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, cream cheese and ricotta cheese, eggs, spinach and spices. Stir with a spatula to combine. Stir in the chicken.
2. Place the mixture in a gallon size Ziploc bag and snip a corner off. I've found that around a ½" diameter hole works well for me. Too small, and it comes out too slowly, too big and it gets messy.
3. Pour 2 cups marinara sauce at the bottom of a 9x13 or equivalent sized pan. Place the hole of the bag inside one end of the manicotti and fill with the cheese mixture to the end. If it didn't fill the other end, flip it around a fill the other side using the same method.
4. Place the manicotti into the pan on top of the sauce and repeat until all the manicotti shells are full. Top with an additional 2 cups of marinara sauce. Sprinkle mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top, to taste. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake at 350*F covered for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes, or until cheese has reached desired meltiness/ crispness.
Hint: As I've made this, I've discovered that wringing out all the water from the spinach makes a big difference. I usually squeeze out what I can by hand, then roll it in a paper towel and wring it tightly until it stops leaking water. After doing this, the spinach will be clumped together. Break it up before adding it in.
- Italian Sausage- switch the shredded chicken for ½ pound cooked Italian Sausage.
- Alfredo- follow all the directions above, except use your favorite Alfredo sauce instead of marinara sauce.
- Without Meat- simply omit the chicken, no other alterations necessary
- Extra Easy- skip the spices (it will be less flavorful but still delicious) and make as otherwise directed
- Spicy- add an extra 1 ¼ teaspoons (for 1 ½ teaspoons total) of chili pepper flakes
- Manicotti Stuffed Jumbo Shells- boil the shells about 7 minutes, until they are flexible, but not longer or they are too difficult to work with! Drain the shells and complete everything else as normal.
- Healthy- This is definitely a comfort meal, and sometimes I crave manicotti but want it to be a little lighter. Double the meat, double the spinach and reduce all cheeses by ⅓.
- Seafood- omit the chicken and use x-small shrimp instead. Remove the tails and cut in half crosswise.
Storage & Make Ahead
The filling stores in the freezer beautifully. When I make this, I often make a double batch of the filling and store half of it in the freezer to use in the future. Thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours to use the filling this way.
These also make a great freezer meal: Make the whole thing other than baking it. Cover with foil and store in the freezer until ready to use. Add an additional 30 minutes of covered baking time.
Leftovers: Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
The best and easiest way to fill manicotti shells is to scoop the filling into a piping bag, insert the corner into the pasta and squeeze the filling out into the shell, filling the other end if necessary. If you don't have a piping bag, simply stick it in a ziploc bag, and snip off the corner. The hole should be around ½-5/8" diameter. This allows the filling to come out easily, but also enables you to stick the bag inside the tube.
Best Manicotti Recipe EVER
- 1 package manicotti shells 12-14, uncooked
- 4 ½ cups marinara sauce
- 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese plus more to put on top
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese plus more to put on top
- 4 oz. cream cheese
- 1 15 oz. tub ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs
- 10 oz. frozen spinach thaw, drain, and squeeze the water out
- 8 oz. shredded chicken
- 1 teaspoon parsley
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon basil
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Wring out all the water from the spinach. I usually squeeze out what I can by hand, then roll it in a paper towel and wring it tightly until it stops leaking water. After doing this, the spinach will be clumped together. Break it up before adding it in.
- Combine all of the cheeses, eggs, spinach, shredded chicken and spices into a large bowl and mix well with a spatula.
- Place the mixture in a gallon size Ziploc bag and snip a corner off. I've found that around a ½" diameter hole works well for me.
- Pour 2 cups marinara sauce at the bottom of a 9x13 or equivalent sized pan.
- Place the hole inside one end of the uncooked manicotti pasta shell and fill with the cheese mixture to the end. If it didn't fill the other end, flip it around and fill the other side. There is plenty of filling, so don't be scant!
- Place the manicotti into the pan and repeat until all the manicotti pasta shells are full.
- Top with an additional 2 ½ cups marinara sauce.
- Top with mozzarella and parmesan to taste (we like ours cheesy).
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 covered for 45 minutes, then 15 minutes uncovered or until cheese reaches desired doneness.
Make a delicious filling of cheeses, spinach and chicken. Pour marinara sauce on the bottom of your pan, fill manicotti pasta and place on top. Top with more marinara and parmesan cheese. Bake covered for 45 minutes, then 15 minutes uncovered.
Bake at 350*F covered for 45 minutes, then 15 minutes uncovered.
Bake covered with aluminum foil for 45 minutes, then 15 minutes uncovered, or until cheese reaches desired meltiness.
Place filling in a large ziploc bag. Cut a hole in one corner, ½" in diameter. Place bag next to hole of uncooked manicotti shell then squeeze filling into it. If it doesn't go all the way to the other end, repeat on the other end.
They are a type of large pasta tube, usually ridged. Traditionally filled with ricotta cheese and spinach, it makes a great entree.
To cook, simply fill your pasta shells with filling, place a layer of marinara sauce, then the shells, then more marinara sauce to cover the noodles. Then bake in the oven, allowing the pasta to cook in the sauce while it bakes.