This Cheese Manicotti with Spinach is a creamy ricotta-filled pasta coated in a creole-seasoned sauce and marinara sauce that’s cheesy and absolutely delicious!
Tonight is one of those nights. You know, the ones where you’ve crash-landed on the couch and there’s no way you’re getting up to make dinner? Door dash is calling my name.
On nights like these, one of two things can happen: I cave and order an army’s worth of Mexican food or I rally for just long enough to reheat something I’ve tucked away in the freezer.
Recipes like today’s are what make that second option possible! A few weeks ago I quickly (and very easily) made a delicious batch of this cheese manicotti recipe with spinach. The leftovers were frozen and tonight they’re making their debut!
Cheese Manicotti with some added spinach and red sauce is the perfect weeknight meal! Made with simple ingredients in just under an hour, this recipe is one the whole family will love.
Perks and Highlights for Cheese Manicotti with Spinach
Cuisine Inspiration: Italian
Primary Cooking Method: Baking
Dietary Info: Vegetarian
Key Flavor: Rich and Cheesy with a Hint of Earthy Spinach
Skill Level: Intermediate
- Comfort Food Heaven: Cheese, pasta, and baked to perfection – this dish is the culinary equivalent of a hug from your Italian grandmother (real or honorary). It’s comfort food that warms the soul!
- Spinach Surprise: “Eat your greens” takes a delicious turn. The spinach isn’t just there for color; it adds a touch of earthiness that cuts through the richness, balancing the dish like a culinary seesaw.
- Versatile Cheese Game: One type of cheese is great but why stop there? This recipe allows for cheese variations that will satisfy all your cheesy cravings. Experiment with different combinations to find your family’s new favorite.
- Make Ahead Magic: Got a busy week ahead? No problemo! Prepare your manicotti the day before, refrigerate, and just pop it in the oven when you’re ready. It’s like a gift from past you to future you!
- Family-Friendly Fare: This dish isn’t just a meal; it’s an experience best shared. Gathering the family to fill each manicotti can turn meal prep into a beloved family tradition. Plus, it’s a sneaky way to get the kids to eat their spinach!
- Manicotti shells-cannelloni, jumbo shells, or hand-rolled lasagna noodles will all work.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil- canola, vegetable, or sunflower oil can be used in its place.
- Minced garlic- I love lots of garlic in everything! If you don’t, pull back the measurement.
- MY Marinara sauce–My homemade is amazing here! But if you are in a pinch, use a store bought.
- Grated parmesan cheese– fresh is best but I’m not judging. Use anything you have on hand.
- Cajun + Italian Seasoning– season to taste!
- Red pepper flakes– a pinch of spice never hurts! Add as much or as little as you’d like.
- Ground nutmeg- just a bit of flavor. Omit if you don’t have it.
- Ricotta cheese- whole milk is where it’s at but you can use what you’d like. Try a mix of ricotta and mascarpone for a unique, delicious twist.
- Fresh spinach– fresh or frozen can be used. If using frozen, be sure to defrost and drain properly.
- Onion– sweet or yellow is fine. You could even use a large shallot!
- Mozzarella– whole milk is best but part-skim works. If you really wanna shake things up, try using provolone or swiss!
- Parsley– this is pretty much just for garnish. So if you don’t have it, don’t worry!
How do I stuff Manicotti without Breaking them?
The secret is to not boil them. Alternatively, you could just soak them in some hot water for a few minutes but I find that even that is not necessary. Simply stuff them right out of the box and they’ll cook in the oven. There is enough sauce in this recipe to cook them properly.
How to Store Leftovers
To store leftovers, transfer the cheese 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 cheese 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.
Some of the Best Pasta Recipes to Try!
- Creamy Garlic Pasta with Scallops
- Classic Lasagna
- Lobster Mac and Cheese
- Baked Spaghetti
- Lasagna Roll Ups
- Chicken Stuffed Shells
- Cajun Spinach Stuffed Manicotti
- White Lasagna Soup
Cheese Manicotti with Spinach and Red Sauce
- 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 can it homemade
- 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
- 1-2 cups marinara sauce FIND THE FULL RECIPE HERE
- 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.
- Top with the marinara sauce then 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.