This spinach stuffed manicotti has quickly become one of our family’s favorite comfort foods. It’s a great option for meatless Mondays and it makes a convenient freeze ahead meal. All reasons why I always double this recipe.
Baked cheese, pasta and tomatoes, really what else do we need to say!
In this post, you’ll find not only the recipe for spinach stuffed manicotti but also tips for filling the manicotti, pros and cons of pre-cooking manicotti and tips for freezing this recipe. Let’s get right to it with the recipe.
Recipe for Spinach Stuffed Manicotti
- Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add manicotti and return to boil. Cook for 6-7 minutes or until slightly less done than el dente (shells still hold their shape). Do not overcook.
- Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside in a single layer allowing water to run off.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Cover bottom of 8x8 casserole dish with 1½ cups of marinara sauce.
- In large bowl, mix ricotta, ½ cup mozzarella, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, egg, Italian seasoning, salt, nutmeg and spinach.
- Use a teaspoon, piping bag without a tip or plastic bag with a tip cut off to fill pasta shells.
- Place manicotti on top of sauce. Pour remainder of sauce on top.
- Mix ¼ cup mozzarella and 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese together. Sprinkle on top of sauce.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes until cheese bubbles and turns brown.
- To Freeze: Do not bake. Cool assembled dish completely. Cover with plastic wrap and aluminum foil or lid. Label with cooking instructions.
- To Prepare: Thaw overnight in fridge. Remove all wrapping, cover with foil and cook at 350°F for 50 minutes, uncover and cook another 5 to 10 minutes. Or bake direct from frozen for 1 3/4 - 2 hours or until heated through and cheese is bubbly and turning golden.
- Makes: 7 manicotti noodles
- Serves: 3-4 people
- For tips on filling and using un-cooked manicotti shell see article at www.gettystewart.com.
- *I used 4 frozen spinach pucks to make approximately 1/2 cup. I thawed them and used my hand to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
Tips for Filling Manicotti Pasta Shells
- Pre-cook the manicotti until just before it becomes el dente, about 6-7 minutes. At this point the shells will still be firm enough to hold their shape and yet soft enough that you don’t need extra liquid or extended cooking time.
- Use a small teaspoon that will fit inside the manicotti opening.
- Skip the spoon and use a pastry bag without a decorating tip. Or, fill a sturdy plastic bag, snip off one corner and use it as a pastry bag.
Or, go wild and crazy and try one of these tips:
- Do not cook the manicotti shells at all. They’re so much easier to handle when dry and hard. But be warned, there are some trade offs as mentioned below.
- Don’t use manicotti! Use big clam shell pasta that has big wide openings. Or soak no-bake lasagna noodles in hot water for 5 minutes and make ricotta spinach roll ups.
Do You Have to Pre-Cook the Manicotti
No you don’t HAVE to, but there are some trade offs if you don’t, so read on.
We’ve tried this recipe both ways and we’ve eaten every single bite, every time because they were both delicious. However, we did find the uncooked manicotti shells were a little chewier and starchier than the pre-cooked ones.
To compensate for this difference, you need to add a little more liquid to the tomato sauce and cook the entire dish a little longer. The tricky part is figuring out exactly how much more liquid and how much longer to bake it to get perfectly cooked shells. While it’s hard to give exact instructions because every tomato sauce will be different, here are some guidelines.
- Add 1/2 cup to 1 cup water to your tomato sauce so the pasta can soak it up as it’s cooking. Exactly how much depends on how thick or liquidy your sauce is.
- Add 10 to 15 minutes to the baking time.
- Test the noodles with a fork to see how tender they are to determine if more baking time is needed.
- Bake the entire dish with a cover (aluminum foil) for the first 40 minutes to keep the moisture locked in.
Personally, I still opt for pre-cooking the manicotti, especially if company is coming over and I want perfectly cooked manicotti. But that’s just me – you do what works best for you.
Tips for Freezing Spinach Stuffed Manicotti
This recipe works well as a freeze ahead meal. Here are some tips to get the best results.
- When assembling, it is best to have all ingredients (manicotti, cheese, sauce) at the same temperature. For example, if you place cold pasta on hot sauce, the pasta will slowly cook wherever it’s touching the sauce.
- Allow dish to cool completely before wrapping. Consider storing in the fridge overnight to let it cool thoroughly. This helps prevents condensation and ice crystal build up.
- Use a double barrier to prevent oxygen from reaching the food. I use a layer of plastic wrap to put right on the surface of the food, then I wrap the dish with a layer of aluminum foil or a plastic lid (if I have one that fits). I have found the press ‘n seal type of wrap works very well in situations like this.
- Label your dish. Include the recipe name and cooking instructions. It’s a good idea to also include the date if prepared meals like this typically stay in your freezer for a long time.
- Knowing this meal may be prepared by others in my family, I include helpful details like – Remove plastic – because you never know.
- For best quality, use within 3 to 6 months. It can be safely frozen for much longer (years even) but flavor and texture loss will start to be noticeable at around 6 months.
Note: I have not tried freezing this dish using uncooked manicotti shells, so I’m not sure how the shells would hold up or how the cooking times might change.
I’m curious, if you make these spinach stuffed manicotti, will you pre-cook your manicotti shells first or not? Whichever way you try it, let me know.
And as always, if you take a photo and post it on Instagram tag #getgettys so I can see it and like it!
Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this. Getty is a Professional Home Economist, speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas. She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.