This recipe for homemade Cheese Manicotti will not disappoint you or your loved ones. Made with fresh pasta, ricotta, eggs and fresh tomato sauce, this recipe for cannelloni will be a winner any night of the week or the weekend.
- Cannelloni vs. Manicotti
- Tips and Tricks
- Make the Tomato Sauce in Advance
- What Type of Pasta do I use to Make Cheese Manicotti?
- Do I Have to Cook the Pasta before I make Manicotti or Cannelloni?
- What Goes into the Filling for Cheese Manicotti?
- How do I Roll the Lasagna Sheets to Make the Manicotti?
- What Type of Baking Pan do I use and how do I prepare it?
- Baking the Cannelloni
- Recipe Details
Cannelloni vs. Manicotti
What's the difference between Cannelloni vs. Manicotti? Two different words that literally mean the same thing. Traditionally manicotti have ridges while cannelloni are slightly thinner and smooth. But the difference is very minimal.
In this recipe, you can easily swap out the fresh pasta sheets with large shells to make ricotta filled shells.
Tips and Tricks
Make the Tomato Sauce in Advance
Make your tomato sauce ahead of time. This will save you time. Once you have your sauce ready, assembling the remaining ingredients and rolling the pasta into cheese manicotti will take you 20 minutes.
For this recipe, I used whole canned tomatoes. But, you can use crushed tomatoes or tomato puree. I just find the texture of the tomato sauce goes very well for this cheese manicotti recipe
But you're not done yet. Keep scrolling down and read on. Don't forget you'll need to bake the cannelloni for at least 40 to 50 minutes before you can serve them.
What Type of Pasta do I use to Make Cheese Manicotti?
This is a good question and there's no right answer. However, when making cheese manicotti you do have options:
- Store bought Manicotti or Cannelloni Shells
- Store bought Large Pasta (sea) Shells
- Fresh store bought Lasagna Sheets
- Homemade Lasagna Sheets
Do I Have to Cook the Pasta before I make Manicotti or Cannelloni?
This is also a good question and some people get it wrong. Cheese Manicotti are delicate but not hard to make. Just remember that if the pasta is hard it will need to be pre-cooked. You may be able to find oven ready pasta shells, but they usually end up tasting "chalky".
It's best not to skip corners for making these cannelloni and just par-boil store bought pasta. Here is a simple guide that will help you decide what to buy and whether you need to par-boil your pasta in preparation for stuffing them with your ricotta cheese filling.
- Manicotti Shells - Manicotti shells -usually need to be cooked for about 7 minutes. You should take them out of the water and put them in a ice water bath when they are about mid-way cooked. Then you can stuff them and put them on a baking sheet and complete the cooking process in the oven. Barilla has manicotti shells and they look like this here.
- Home Made Lasagna Sheets - nothing beats home made lasagna. If you have the time, homemade is always better. With fresh homemade lasagna, you don't need to blanche the pasta because it is very tender and pliable. Just use as needed whether you are making lasagna, manicotti or cannelloni.
- Conchiglioni (Large) Pasta Shells - Large pasta shells also usually need to be cooked for about 9 minutes. You should take them out of the water and put them in a ice water bath when they are about mid-way cooked. Then you can stuff them and put them on a baking sheet and complete the cooking process in the oven. Barilla has large pasta shells and they look like this here.
- Pre-made Fresh Lasagna Sheets - It should come as no surprise that this is my favorite option and my go to for making these homemade cannelloni. That's because it is less laborious than the other three options listed above. You can buy fresh lasagna sheets virtually anywhere and one lasagna sheet normally yields two (2) manicotti/cannelloni. You can use fresh lasagna without pre-cooking it because normally you use it to make lasagna and you lay it flat then bake it. However, if you are making manicotti or cannelloni you'll need to blanche them for 30 seconds in boiling water so that you can easily "roll" them to form a manicotti shape.
*Note: I have never par-boiled "oven ready pasta", so I can't give any advice in this regard. I have used it before to make lasagna, and depending on what brand you buy, it may have a bite or taste "chalky".
For these cheese manicotti I did decide to use store bought lasagna sheets. To prepare the lasagna sheets, I took one lasagna sheet at a time and blanched them in boiling water before I cut it in half and put the cheese filling on each half
What Goes into the Filling for Cheese Manicotti?
These two cheese manicotti recipe can easily be turned into a three cheese recipe by adding mozzarella with the parmesan and ricotta cheese. You could also add spinach to add a little bit of vegetable to your manicotti.
But, if this is your first time making manicotti - stick to the recipe. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how simple is sometimes better! Then the next time, you can put your own spin on this recipe and make it your own.
You can pretty much throw all of the cheese ingredients in one bowl and mix them with a spoon until they are well incorporated.
TIME SAVING TIP: once you have your cheese filling ready, place it in a piping bag and use the piping bag to pipe out the cheese mixture in the shells or on the lasagna sheets (depending on which pasta you are using). If you don't have a piping bag, use a sandwich or other type of bag.
To fill the piping bag or sandwich bag, place the piping bag over a tall glass and then using a spoon fill it with the cheese filling.
How do I Roll the Lasagna Sheets to Make the Manicotti?
Once you have piped out the cheese filling on to the lasagna sheet, carefully fold over the pasta so that the edge of the past is wrapped around the cheese filling and slide the pasta back to contain the cheese, then roll it up until you have no pasta left. You want the cannelloni to be about 1 ½ inches thick.
Once you have rolled up the cannelloni, place it into the prepared baking dish and repeat.
What Type of Baking Pan do I use and how do I prepare it?
A glass baking dish or an aluminum roasting pan probably works best for baking these cannelloni. Before you place any cannelloni in your baking dish, you will want to prepare the dish for your pillows of cheese filled roll-ups.
Remember that your pasta isn't fully cooked and that the cooking process is going to finish in the oven. So you will need to prepare your baking dish by placing a combination of water and some of the tomato sauce you prepared earlier.
Use a ratio of 3:1 water to sauce. You will want to ensure that the liquid comes up ¾ inches from the bottom of the pan.
You will also want to place 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil in the bottom of the pan so that the cannelloni don't stick to the bottom of the pan.
Baking the Cannelloni
Once you have placed all of your cannelloni in the baking dish you will want to top them off with the remaining sauce you made. Cover the baking dish with foil and place it in the oven at 350° for about 40 minutes.
If you have made these ahead of time, your cannelloni will need about 15 minutes more time particularly if you have taken them straight from the fridge to the oven.
You'll also want to check in on your pasta dish at the 30 minute mark. If you see that the water has evaporated, you'll want to add a little bit more water so that the cannelloni don't stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.
Once your pasta is ready, take it out of the oven and let is rest for 10 minutes. No one wants to eat piping hot manicotti!
Reflection: Cooking is like science, you need to experiment with different combinations to come up with the perfect result (for you). But, don't worry if it's not perfect. Pat yourself on the back for trying, you deserve it! Just try and figure out what you did wrong and do it different next time.
Looking for a dessert to go with this main entrée? Why not try one of these?
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tbsp ghee or butter
- 1 800 ml can of whole tomatoes or tomato puree or crushed tomato
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp (sugar if necessary see note*
- salt and pepper to taste
- 700 g Ricotta
- ½ cup of parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- ½ tsp salt
- pepper to taste
- 350 g fresh lasagna sheets
- 2 tbsp olive oil for baking dish
- In a medium saucepan heat oil and sauté garlic until fragrent. (watch that it doesn't burn)
- Using a fork pick select the whole tomatoes and place them in the saucepan with the oil and garlic. Mash them with a wooden spoon as they cook.
- Add the tomato water from the can and bring to a boil.
- Lower the temperature and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Prepare your baking dish by combining a ratio of 3:1 water to sauce and placing it in the bottom of your dish ensure if comes up ¾ of an inch from the bottom of the pan.
- Cheese Filling
- Combine all ingredients for cheese filling in a bowl and mix well.
- Place filling in a snack bag and snip the end to about ½ ". If you have a piping bag you can use that too.
- Lasagna Sheets and Assembly
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Place about one cup of water in a large frypan and bring to a boil.
- Take one lasagna sheet by the corners and dunk it in boiling water being careful not to burn your fingers. Move it back and forth until it lightens in color slightly and is soft then remove and place on your work surface.
- Cut the lasagna sheet in half.
- Pipe cheese filling close to the edge of the lasagna sheet. Fold over the lasagna sheet and pull back slightly to contain the cheese filling, then roll up.
- Place the cannelloni in the baking dish on top of the sauce, water, oil combo.
- Cover with foil and place in over for 40 to 50 minutes.
- Check at 30 minutes and add more water if necessary to avoid cannelloni from sticking to bottom of pan and burning.
- You will know that they are done because when you insert a fork into the pasta it will be tender and easily fall apart and the remaining liquid in the pan will be boiling rapidly or steam.
- Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.