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Hearty and meaty Stuffed Manicotti recipe
Stuffed manicotti with sausage and spinach; a hearty and delicious Italian classic!
This baked stuffed manicotti was on regular rotation at our house back in the day when our kids were still at home. We also made a lot of stuffed shells which is basically the same; only made a different form of stuffed pasta shells. Our stuffed manicotti shells recipe has always been a favorite with the whole family.
Now that our kids are grown we usually only make this for company because it’s crazy delicious and we might end up eating the whole entire pan ourselves. Of course another great reason it’s perfect for company is that it’s easily made ahead, refrigerated and then and baked when needed!
This is the perfect dish to feed a hungry crowd. However we’ve been known to cut the recipe in half for just the two of us as leftovers are pretty amazing.
Overview of ingredients:
For the sauce:
- Sweet Italian sausage is our favorite in this casserole, but any variety will do. If you use hot or spicy Italian sausage, feel free to omit the red pepper flakes in the sauce. You can also substitute ground beef for the sausage if preferred.
If you want a meatless dish, feel free to omit the Italian Sausage. The manicotti and sauce will still be delicious, but a little less hearty. The sausage adds a lot of heft and flavor to this casserole.
- Olive oil for sautéing the vegetables
- Mushrooms – if your family doesn’t love mushrooms feel free to leave them out. However, there’s a lot of flavor built into this casserole while the mushrooms are browned in the skillet.
- Shallots for building flavor in the sauce along with the mushrooms.
- Garlic – because every tomato based Italian recipe needs plenty of fresh minced garlic. Don’t skimp on the fresh garlic!
- Crushed red pepper flakes to add a little warm zing to the sauce. If you don’t care for this spice feel free to leave it out; it’s completely optional.
- Dry white wine for deglazing the pan while making the sauce. You can buy small individual size bottles of wine at most well stocked grocery stores. We usually have Chardonnay on hand for cooking. Substitute chicken broth if needed.
- Fresh baby spinach leaves are wilted and added to the sauce. You can’t taste the spinach but it adds some much needed vegetables to our day. I say sneak in more vegetables wherever you can, especially in a dish as flavorful as this stuffed manicotti.
For the pasta:
- Manicotti pasta shells – an 8 ounce box should give you 12 to 14 manicotti noodles which is perfect for this casserole.
- Part-skim ricotta cheese
- Large eggs
- Fresh parsley leaves
- Salt and pepper
- Fresh grated Parmesan cheese
- Shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
Can stuffed manicotti be made ahead of time?
Yes! That’s one of the great things about this delicious casserole. The entire dish can be made ahead, assembled, cooled, covered and refrigerated until needed.
Bring the manicotti to room temperature for at least 30 minutes before baking to take the chill off. Cover the manicotti with foil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Remove the foil, top with mozzarella and the remaining Parmesan and bake uncovered, for another 15 minutes.
Perfect for company or Sunday Supper
This easy, hearty and flavorful stuffed manicotti is absolutely perfect for company and our monthly family Sunday suppers. If you don’t need a large casserole this recipe is easily halved and baked in a 9-inch square baking dish. Leftovers are pretty fantastic rewarmed gently in the microwave.
Another great thing about this recipe is that it’s still delicious even if you use store-bought jarred marinara sauce for the base. We love this shortcut and therefore always have a jar on hand.
However, if you have an extra 30 minutes try our outstanding homemade marinara sauce recipe. You’ll need about 3 cups of marinara for this recipe.
Can you add more cheese to stuffed manicotti?
I don’t recommend overstuffing the manicotti shells because the cheese mixture might ooze out the ends of the pasta shells before it’s baked. The eggs are added to the filling to help the ricotta set, but only works after it’s baked.
The recipe calls for only 1 cup mozzarella cheese sprinkled on top at the end of baking. This seems like the perfect amount of gooey cheese for this dish. You can add more if you like, but I wouldn’t go overboard. It’s pretty cheesy all the way around.
The recipe calls for a small amount of dry white wine to deglaze the pan. Can you leave this out?
I love the little bit of wine in this chunky sauce, but if you don’t drink alcohol leave it out and use chicken broth instead.
I get a lot of questions about using wine in our recipes. Most of the time our readers don’t want to open an entire bottle of wine for just one dish. Nobody likes to waste money and an open bottle of wine won’t keep forever.
If you don’t use wine for anything other than cooking, I suggest buying single serve bottles. Most well stocked grocery or wine stores sell little bottles in a four-pack. I always keep mini bottles of white and red wine on hand for cooking. Each bottle contains about 1 cup.
Fine wines don’t usually come in small plastic bottles, but the varieties I’ve tried are perfect for cooking. Sutter Home Chardonnay is our go-to white wine for cooking. It comes in a 4-pack of single-serve bottles for about $5.00.
Serve this hearty stuffed manicotti with a crispy salad and a hunk of crusty bread for a complete meal.
Finally, for a spectacular ending to this amazing meal try our favorite make-ahead Classic Tiramisu recipe!
Thanks for PINNING!
Stuffed Manicotti with Sausage and Spinach
For the sauce:
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage casings removed
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 8 ounces mushrooms cleaned and thick sliced
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 small shallot minced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 5 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
- 3 cups marinara sauce store-bought or homemade
For the pasta:
- 8 ounces manicotti pasta shells (12 to 14 shells)
- 2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- ⅓ cup fresh shredded Parmesan cheese divided
- 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a 13x9-inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.
- Put a large pot of water on the stove top and heat on medium-low while preparing the sauce.
To prepare the sauce:
- Cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat until browned, breaking up chunks with a spoon. Remove the sausage and any liquid from the skillet. Drain well. Set aside. (Do not wipe out the skillet.)
- Pour the olive oil into the now empty skillet. Add the mushrooms and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, undisturbed until dark browned. Stir and continue cooking until the mushrooms release their moisture and it evaporates. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the minced shallot. Cook and stir constantly until the shallot softens, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Carefully pour in the wine. Deglaze the pan by scraping up any crusty bits on the bottom. Add the spinach and cook stirring constantly to wilt. This can be done in two batches if needed. Add the marinara sauce and cooked sausage. Stir to combine then remove from the heat. Cover and set aside while preparing the pasta.
To prepare the pasta:
- Bring the pot of water to a boil over high heat. Cook the manicotti according to package directions, about 7 minutes. Rinse with cold water and drain well.
- In a medium bowl mix together the ricotta, eggs, parsley, salt, pepper and half the Parmesan cheese.
- Spread 3 cups of the meat sauce in the prepared pan. Spoon or pipe the ricotta mixture into the cooked manicotti shells filling each with about ¼ cup. Place the stuffed manicotti in two tight rows or a single layer on top of the sauce in the prepared pan. Repeat until all pasta is filled. Top with remaining sauce. You may have 1 or 2 extra manicotti shells. Refrigerate and use with leftovers or tuck into the casserole if desired.
- Cover the pan with foil and bake for 25 minutes or until the casserole is hot and bubbling. Remove the foil and sprinkle with mozzarella and remaining Parmesan. Bake uncovered until the cheese melts, about 5 to 10 minutes more. Cool 15 minutes then serve garnished with fresh basil, if desired.
- Recipe inspired from the Yes, Italian! Cookbook
- The entire dish can be made ahead, assembled, cooled, covered and refrigerated until needed. Bring the manicotti to room temperature for at least 30 minutes before baking. Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Remove the foil, top with mozzarella and the remaining Parmesan and bake uncovered, for another 15 minutes.
Easy Stuffed Manicotti with sausage and spinach
There you have it, another amazing dish the whole family’s going to love. Make the casserole ahead of time, refrigerate and bake when ready to serve. This classic recipe is highly adaptable and can even be made meatless with great results.
Our stuffed manicotti is great to make on the weekend and reheat leftovers during the work week. Try some of our other easy Italian favorites like these make ahead freezable meatballs, our classic Chicken Parmesan, Eggplant Parmesan and this super simple weeknight baked gnocchi.