This Cajun Spinach Stuffed Manicotti is made with creamy ricotta, leafy spinach, cajun spice, smooth cream, and salty parmesan making this stuffed-to-the-gills manicotti is worthy of a special occasion or a casual weeknight dinner! If you love this, you will love Chicken Stuffed Shells, Butternut Squash Ravioli, and Baked Ziti.
I love all things pasta! In fact, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t eat pasta several nights of the week. Pasta can be super simple, like spaghetti and meatballs. But, pasta can also be intricate, like layered lasagnas. No matter how you spin it, it’s good stuff.
Today’s recipe is one that looks more complicated than it is. This Spinach Stuffed Manicotti only actually requires a few simple steps: make the sauce, whip up the ricotta mixture, stuff the shells, and bake. It’s that easy. Creamy, cheesy, and saucy, this manicotti is what pasta dreams are made of.
SPINACH MANICOTTI INGREDIENTS
As much as I appreciate the structure of a recipe, I love a challenge. Most nights, I rely on what’s already lurking the depths of my fridge to inspire a meal. Like my Big Mama always said, work with what ya got!
Use this recipe as a loose outline, then get creative! Here is some information regarding ingredients to keep in mind:
Manicotti Shells- These can be replaced with cannelloni, jumbo shells, or hand-rolled lasagna noodles. Basically, if it’s pasta and you can stuff it, you can use it.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil- You can never go wrong investing in a high-quality bottle of olive oil. Alternatively, pure olive oil, walnut oil, or grapeseed oil will work.
Minced Garlic- Grated garlic is also great. Use as much or as little as you’d like!
Heavy Whipping Cream- Don’t have any heavy cream? To make 1 cup of heavy cream, mix 2/3 cup of whole milk with 1/3 cup melted butter. Really, it is that simple.
Grated Parmesan- Freshly grated parm is always gonna be the best option, but anything you can get your hands on will be good.
Cajun Seasoning- Anything labeled “Cajun” or “Creole” seasoning is perfect. Smoky, salty, and sweet, this blend layers in just the right amount of flavor.
Italian Seasoning- Season to taste! If you want more, use it!
Red Pepper Flakes- If you’re not a fan of spice, feel free to leave this one out. Aleppo pepper or cayenne also work.
Ground Nutmeg- Earthy and warm, nutmeg adds depth of flavor and an umami quality. Omit if you’d like, or replace with Mace or Allspice.
Ricotta Cheese- Whole-milk or part-skim ricotta can be used. In a pinch, ricotta can be replaced with cream cheese or mascarpone.
Fresh Spinach- Don’t be afraid to use up that frozen spinach! Make sure it’s fully thawed and squeezed of all excess water before using it.
Onion- Just about any kind of onion will work: yellow, sweet, shallot, etc.
Mozzarella Cheese- Whole-milk mozzarella is best, but part-skim will also work. Want to switch things up? Try Provolone, Swiss, or Fontina instead!
Parsley- This is just a garnish, so if you don’t have it don’t worry about it.
HOW TO MAKE STUFFED MANICOTTI
This is definitely one of my go-to weeknight dinner recipes! Simple ingredients, minimal effort, and a tasty result? I call that a busy mom WIN.
- Do a little prep work- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the manicotti according to the box instructions, then set aside to bring down to room temperature.
- Stir up the Sauce- Do not leave the sauce unattended. Keep the heat low, whisk constantly, and only cook until thickened. Be sure to taste as you go, seasoning with salt and pepper if desired. Pour every drop into a large baking pan, then set aside.
- Make the Ricotta Mixture- Make sure to combine your ingredients, we’re looking for an even texture here.
- Stuff the Manicotti- You can use a piping bag, a spoon or your hands to fill the manicotti. Stuff these guys to the brim, then lay them in a single layer in the baking dish with the sauce.
- Bake and Serve- Cover the manicotti with the remaining cheese and bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbling. If you’d like to get that golden-brown top, turn on the broiler for a couple minutes right at the end. Watch carefully though! Allow to cool for about 10 minutes, top with fresh parsley, and enjoy!
MANICOTTI VS. CANNELLONI
Manicotti is the Italian-American version of Cannelloni. Both are large pasta tubes, and the difference between the two is minimal: manicotti tubes are ridged and slightly thicker, whereas cannelloni tubes are smooth, and a little smaller.
If you can’t find manicotti at your local market, cannelloni is a great replacement!
HOW TO STORE LEFTOVER MANICOTTI
To store leftovers, transfer the manicotti to an airtight container or cover the original baking dish with plastic wrap. The leftovers will keep for 3-5 days refrigerated.
For easy reheating, place your desired portion on a microwave-safe dish or plate and microwave at 30 second intervals until heated through. Alternatively, you can reheat the leftovers in the original baking dish in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
CAN I FREEZE STUFFED MANICOTTI?
Yes! You can freeze your stuffed manicotti cooked or uncooked: a perfect opportunity to tuck away a busy weeknight/emergency meal. To freeze, either wrap the baking dish with aluminum foil or plastic wrap, or transfer the manicotti to an airtight, freezer-safe container.
If properly stored, frozen manicotti will keep for 1-2 months. Let the pasta defrost overnight in the refrigerator before it’s served. For uncooked manicotti, bake for an extra 10 minutes covered. For pre-cooked manicotti, bake for 20-30 minutes or until heated through and bubbling on top.
LOVE THIS GRANDBABY CAKES RECIPE? TRY THESE!
- CAULIFLOWER MAC AND CHEESE
- CREAMY GARLIC PASTA WITH SEARED SCALLOPS
- CLASSIC LASAGNA
- CAJUN JAMBALAYA PASTA
Cajun Spinach Stuffed Manicotti
- 6 oz manicotti shells
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese divided
- 1 tbsp cajun seasoning divided
- 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- pinch of ground nutmeg
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 2 cups fresh spinach
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1 cup shedded mozzarella cheese
- parsley for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
- Cook the manicotti according to the instructions on the box and set aside separately to bring back to room temperature.
- Add olive oil to a large pan over medium high heat. Once melted, add garlic and cook for 30-60 seconds making sure not to overcook and cause burning.
- Add heavy cream, ½ cup of parmesan cheese, ½ tablespoon of cajun seasoning, Italian Seasoning, pinch of red pepper flakes, and pinch of ground nutmeg and stir to mix together. Bring cream sauce to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for 5-7 minutes to thicken. Once thickened, remove from heat and pour into a large baking pan and set aside.
- Next in a separate medium sized bowl, add ricotta cheese, spinach, onion, remaining parmesan and remaining cajun seasoning and stir together to combine well.
- Stuff room temperature manicotti with spinach mixture and add to the bottom of the sauced baking pan.
- Cover with mozzarella cheese and bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese has completely melted and is bubbling. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes, garnish with parsley and serve.