This cheesy stuffed four cheese manicotti recipe is so delicious and easy to make. Baked manicotti is an Italian dish with creamy spinach stuffed in large pasta shells, marinara sauce, and cheese. It's perfect for feeding a large crowd and is great for a comforting winter meal on a budget!
🌟 Why this recipe works
Manicotti is easy to make and can be stuffed with various fillings. This particular recipe uses a creamy spinach cheese filling, which pairs perfectly with the marinara sauce and four types of cheese.
The stuffed manicotti shells are then baked in the oven until golden brown, and the cheese is bubbly, resulting in a comforting and delicious meal that the whole family will love!
You can make a fun recipe at home with the kids to help you stuff the large shells with the spinach and cheese mixture to speed up the prep work.
Although it takes 1 hour baked in the oven for the pasta shells to become tender, it is worth the wait when you see the delicious cheesy mixture oozing from them in the tomato sauce covered with mozzarella cheese,
Homemade manicotti is perfect for a big family meal on a budget and great for any occasion with simple ingredients and essential cookware required. I highly recommend to serve this dish with my easy tiramisu as a dessert!
🍽 Key Ingredients
This utterly cheesy recipe requires four types of cheese for the mixture and fresh spinach leaves to stuff inside the manicotti Italian pasta shells.
Manicotti shells: Look for large shells that are easy to stuff. Learn more about different types of Pasta and types of pasta sauce you can use for your meals.
Spinach: Use fresh spinach leaves to combine with the cheese mixture.
Cheeses: Parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, and mozzarella make up this 4 cheese pasta recipe.
Tomato sauce: You can use store-bought marinara sauce or homemade marinara sauce.
Garlic & onion: Thinly sliced cloves of garlic and sliced rounds add flavor to the cheese and spinach mixture.
You can use frozen, but you'll need to thaw and drain all the juices from it first, which is tedious and time-consuming.
If you don't have manicotti shells at your local grocery store, you can use cannelloni shells as an equal replacement for stuffing with the cheese filling.
🔪 How to make
This stuffed four cheese manicotti with meat sauce is easy to make and super delicious, which will impress your guests. The pasta shells are stuffed with creamy spinach and cheese filling and baked in the oven until golden brown.
Peel the onion and cut thin circles using a sharp knife.
Finely chop the garlic.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius) and grease a large casserole dish.
In a large pot, boil the manicotti pasta shells for about 2 minutes less than the package instructs. (Add some oil to the water so that they don't stick together).
Rinse and drain the al dente manicotti shells under cold water and set them aside.
Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and add the onion and the garlic for 3 to 4 minutes, until the onion is soft, then transfer to a bowl.
Drain the liquid from the cottage cheese and combine ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, and 1 cup of mozzarella cheese in a bowl.
Stir in the beaten eggs, the spinach leaves, and the onion mixture until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread about 1 cup of marinara sauce evenly on the bottom of the casserole dish.
Stuff the manicotti shells full of cheese filling, and arrange them on top of the sauce.
Pour the remaining sauce over the shells and use a spoon to move them around a bit so that the sauce gets between them. Then sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella cheese on top and cover with foil.
Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for 15 more until the cheese begins to turn golden brown and the sauce starts to bubble.
Serve with fresh basil leaves, remaining parmesan cheese, and a dollop of sour cream.
💭 Cooking tips
Fill the shells
An easy way to fill the shells is by pouring the mixture into a ziplock bag and cutting the corner to pipe it directly into the shell hole. Alternatively, you can spoon it into the manicotti.
If the cheese mixture is too thick, add a little milk or water to thin it out.
There are many ways that you can change up this spinach and cheese manicotti recipe to suit your taste or dietary needs. Here are some ideas:
Chicken and spinach manicotti
Four cheese spinach manicotti variation is super easy to make and really tasty.
The chicken and spinach go well together, and the cheese adds a delicious creaminess to the dish. Mix one cup of shredded chicken into the mixture.
This variation is perfect for those who love seafood. The seafood gives the dish a nice sweetness and pairs well with the cheese and spinach. Add 1 cup of cooked prawns into the cheese and spinach mixture.
Manicotti recipe with meat
For full-on meat manicotti noodles, add 1 cup of cooked Italian sausage or ground beef mixed with a teaspoon of Italian seasoning.
If you are looking to use another type of pasta check out my list of best gemelli pasta recipes.
🥗 What to serve with Four Cheese Manicotti
There are a few things you can serve with this delicious homemade manicotti pasta dish to make it a complete meal. A simple salad is always a good choice, or you could go for something heartier like roasted potatoes, a tasty soup, or garlic bread.
Spinach, chicken, bacon, and brie salad: This salad is perfect for those who love chicken and bacon. The chicken and bacon go well together, and the brie cheese adds a delicious creaminess to the salad.
Italian fries with rosemary and garlic: This quick and easy recipe is great for dipping into the delicious sauce from the four cheese manicotti - and the flavor of rosemary and garlic gives the fries a nice flavor with a crispy texture.
Roasted tomato soup: This soup is full of flavor and ever so creamy. It's rich in tomato, herbs, garlic, and spices to warm you up on a winter's evening and goes well with the baked manicotti.
🙋 Frequently Asked Questions
Can you prepare manicotti in advance?
Yes, you can prepare the manicotti ahead of time and bake it when you're ready to eat. Simply follow the recipe up until the point of baking, then cover and refrigerate the dish. When you're ready to bake, remove it from the fridge, and preheat the oven before baking.
Do you have to pre-cook manicotti shells?
No, you don't have to pre-cook the manicotti shells before stuffing them. Simply stuff them with the cheese and spinach mixture and bake as directed.
🧊 Storage and ♨️ reheating
This baked manicotti recipe is ideal for eating the following day once the cheese flavors have infused into the pasta shells and can be eaten cold or reheated.
Fridge - Store in an airtight container and consume within 3-4 days
Freezer - Transfer the leftover manicotti to an airtight container and freeze for up to 2 months.
Reheating - Place leftover manicotti in a baking dish, cover with foil, and heat at 350 degrees until warmed through. Alternatively, you can microwave individual pieces for 1-2 minutes.
For more pasta ideas check out my leftover pasta recipes with a full collection of comforting recipes.
🍳 Related Recipes
If you like this manicotti recipe, you should try one of these delicious comfort food pasta recipes.
👪 Serving size
You can expect to get 6 generous servings of baked manicotti using this recipe, or you could easily double or triple the quantity by layering more stuffed shells on top with more marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese.
This four cheese manicotti recipe is a delicious and easy-to-make dish that is perfect for any occasion. The cheesy manicotti can be made ahead of time and frozen for later, or you can enjoy it fresh out of the oven.
🎥 Watch how to make it
Four Cheese Manicotti
- 1 box manicotti - about 12 shells
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 medium onion - sliced in rounds
- 3 cloves garlic - thinly sliced
- 16 oz cottage cheese
- 8 oz ricotta cheese
- 2 cups mozzarella - separated
- 3 cups tomato sauce - Italian
- 2 eggs - beaten
- 3 cups spinach - chopped, packed
- ½ cup parmesan - freshly grated plus more for garnish
- salt and pepper - to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C) and grease a large casserole dish.
- In a large pot, boil the manicotti (add some oil to the water so they don't stick together) for about 2 minutes less than package instructs, then run under cold water before draining and set aside.
- Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat then add the onion and cook for about two minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes more, until the onion is soft then remove from heat and set aside.
- Put the cottage cheese (drain any excess liquid), ricotta, parmesan, 1 cup of the mozzarella in a large bowl and mix well.
- Stir in the beaten eggs, the spinach and onion until well combined and season with salt and pepper.
- Spread about 1 cup of the tomato sauce evenly on the bottom of the casserole dish.
- Stuff the manicotti shells full with cheese and spinach mixture and arrange on top of the sauce. (you can spoon the filling into the shells, or put it in a ziplock bag, then cut the corner and pipe the cheese mixture in)
- Pour the remaining 2 cups of sauce over the shells and use a spoon to move them around a bit so the sauce gets between the manicotti, then sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella cheese on top and cover with foil.
- Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes, then remove foil and bake for 15 more minutes, until the cheese is beginning to turn golden and the sauce is bubbling.