Three Cheese Manicotti is what dreams are made of!  Perfectly cooked manicotti noodles are filled with a glorious blend of ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, and parmesan cheese.  These stuffed noodles are nestled in a bed of spaghetti sauce and topped with melty mozzarella cheese.  If you like pasta, make sure to check out my Tomato Spinach Chicken Spaghetti!

Three Cheese Manicotti
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Three Cheese Manicotti

When I was a little girl, I remember my parents taking me to the “fancy” Italian restaurant.  All I wanted was to order the tried and true, old reliable, spaghetti.  I was told no.  Wait, WHAT?  The rule was that I had to order something I couldn’t get at home.  That was the moment my food world was officially expanded, folks.  It wasn’t until I was forced to look at the rest of the menu that I realized the possibilities.  After much debate, I chose Manicotti.  It was a simple choice.  Stuffed noodles, cheese, and spaghetti sauce.  That was probably the closest thing I could find to Spaghetti anyway.  Fast forward to today.  Imagine my excitement when I realized that this fancy, beautiful dish, was not only delicious but also, incredibly easy to make at home.

Easy Manicotti

How to Make Three Cheese Manicotti

There are essentially three steps in this Three Cheese Manicotti Recipe

Boil the Noodles

The trick with boiling the noodles is that you want them to be “al dente”.  That basically means you don’t want them soggy.  A soggy manicotti noodle will not hold up to the filling process.  You want the noodle to be soft and pliable, but still a little firm.  A typical manicotti noodle needs to cook for about 7 minutes.  You will want them to cool off a bit before you start filling them unless you have a cooking glove, the noodles will be hot.  One trick is to put a small amount of olive oil over the noodles after draining.  Tossing them in the oil will keep them from sticking together.

Stuff the Noodles

First, mix the cheeses together, along with the garlic, egg, and basil seasoning.  Once you have that blended nicely together you can either spoon the mixture into the cooled noodles OR, you can fill a ziplock bag with the mixture.  Snip off the corner of the bag, and pipe the mixture into the noodle.  I tried it both ways and the ziplock method was much cleaner.

Bake the Noodles

To bake the manicotti, first, start by greasing your baking dish.  Then add sauce to the bottom of the pan, nestle the stuffed noodles into the sauce, cover with more sauce and the remaining mozzarella cheese.  Pop that into the oven for 30 minutes or until the cheese is hot and melted.  You can serve this up immediately.

Baked Three Cheese Manicotti

Alternatives to Ricotta Cheese

Sometimes I hear that people just do not like Ricotta Cheese.  It seems like it doesn’t taste like a traditional “cheese”.  I tend to like it in small doses myself.  If you are one of these people, don’t fret…I have you covered.  There are a few options for the Ricotta haters out there.

Adjust the Ratios:  You can reduce the amount of ricotta by half and increase the mozzarella by the same amount.  That way you will still get the necessary moisture that makes this dish amazing, but it won’t have the overwhelming flavor and texture of ricotta.

Substitutions: There are several options when it comes to Ricotta substitutions.  They will all alter the flavor of the dish slightly but they will probably be better if you are against the aforementioned cheese in the first place.

  • Cottage Cheese – It has a mild taste, similar to ricotta but it is less creamy. Cottage cheese is also low in fat and calories, so it is a healthier option too.
  • Goat Cheese – Fresh goat cheese (not aged goat cheese) is rich and creamy, with a mild but slightly tart flavor.
  • Queso Fresco – This fresh Mexican cheese has a mild, salty, and milky flavor. The main difference is that queso fresco is drier than Ricotta, but it can be grated or crumbled in lieu of Ricotta cheese.
  • Cream Cheese – Both have a soft, creamy texture but cream cheese is higher in fat than Ricotta cheese.
Three Cheese Manicotti

Three Cheese Manicotti with Meat

Adding Ground beef or shredded chicken to this meal can really be a game-changer.  We also like to use our homemade spaghetti sauce which has meat already in it.  To introduce meat just follow these simple instructions.

Ground Beef, Sausage, or Turkey:  Brown ground beef, sausage, or turkey until it is cooked through (feel free to add some Italian seasoning or even some sauteed veggies to the mix).  Add in pasta sauce and simmer.  Use this as your base and topping for the manicotti noodles.

Shredded Chicken:  Add shredded chicken into the cheese mixture that gets stuffed into the manicotti noodles.  You will want to make sure it is finely shredded or they won’t fit well.

Smothered Manicotti

What Other Ingredients Can Be Added to Manicotti

I always like to add some options for adding vegetables into my meals.  Here are some ideas:

  • yellow onions
  • green peppers
  • mushrooms
  • red, yellow, or orange peppers
  • jalapeno peppers
  • spinach
  • zucchini
  • more sauce (you can make this even better by adding the second jar of sauce)

All of these can be sauteed or cooked and added to the spaghetti sauce before adding in the manicotti noodles.

How to Make Cheesy Manicotti

Can I Freeze Three Cheese Manicotti?

Yes, but before you cook it.  I love to make this in advance so I can pop it in the oven in a pinch! To freeze manicotti just cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for up to 3 months.  When you’re ready to eat it, just let it thaw 15 minutes and then follow the cooking instructions below.

More Pasta Dishes

4.93 from 13 votes

Three Cheese Manicotti

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Three Cheese Manicotti is what dreams are made of.  Perfectly cooked manicotti noodles are filled with a glorious blend of ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, and parmesan cheese.  These stuffed noodles are nestled in a bed of spaghetti sauce and topped with melty mozzarella cheese.


  • 8 ounces manicotti shells
  • 4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1 jar (26 ounces) pasta sauce


  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish.
  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add manicotti and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente and then drain (optional: drizzle lightly with oil to prevent the noodles from sticking).
  • In a bowl, mix 3 cups mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, garlic, egg, and basil. Stuff cooked manicotti noodles with the mixture.
  • Spread about 2 cups pasta sauce over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange stuffed manicotti in the dish, and cover with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes in the preheated oven. until mozzarella is melted and bubbly.

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Reader Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This recipe is so simple and SO delicious! I’m often asked to make it for family friends and church groups, it’s THAT GOOD!!

  2. 5 stars
    Love this recipe! I always get requests to make it for every holiday and birthdays.. It pairs nice with a homemade vodka sauce

  3. 5 stars
    I will be making this tonight for my mother’s heavenly birthday celebration dinner. She loved manicotti so I’ll be making it with her favorite sauce, hollandaise. With a side of asparagus and steak, and some type of bread or roll.

  4. 5 stars
    This was fantastic. Lady you Chef Gordon Ramsey hasn’t got nothing on you. My wife and I loved it. Thanks for sharing.

  5. 5 stars
    Made this for my daughter-in-law to be and it was suburb! The tip to boil the noodles for 7 minutes, then fill, made them so easy to fill without ripping the shells. I made the cheese mixture in the morning. Filled a piping bad with the mixture and heated it in the microwave for 20 seconds to soften the mixture before filling and it was a breeze. Thank you!

  6. 5 stars
    I had lost my old manicotti recipe so I tried yours and it was delicious. My picky husband even said how much he enjoyed it.

  7. 5 stars
    Yes everyone went nuts over it..
    I even tried something g different….I added 2 cup cooked and drained lean ground beef to the cheeses mixture before stuffing the shells and then added a can of seasoned diced tomatoes with the remaining mozzarella cheese at the end….we served garlic bread with cheese with the meal…we even had a glass of wine with our dinner…

  8. 5 stars
    Hi, I’m a huge pasta freak lol. I made these a few months ago. At my home we normally don’t try something new. Saw these online, went to your page/website & for the 1st time tried something different. These are 100% AMAZINGLY yummy😍My family really enjoyed them & I was proud of myself for doing something new. Thank you alot & will continue trying new stuff from your site

  9. Made this tonight. We added a bit of sweet Italian sausage to the sauce. Big hit! Will definitely be making this again.

4.93 from 13 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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