Make Ahead Manicotti with Tips and Tricks

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Manicotti is a great dish to make and prep the day before you’re having a party, all the work and mess will be finished and cleaned up and you’ll be left with your perfect pan of piped manicotti ready to be popped into the oven the next day.

Many Italian families make their homemade manicotti crepes-style, but in my family we always used the dry manicotti pasta tubes that come in a box, it’s what I grew up on and what my family prefers, so in this post I share with you some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years in making them.manicotti

Many issues can come up in making the pasta-style manicotti, issues like over cooking, tearing pasta, collapsed tubes which are difficult to stuff and the actual process of stuffing them which can become a big mess, but if you follow my tips you should have no problem at all!


I have a box of Wilton, twelve inch disposable decorating bags, I use them every time I need to stuff pasta neatly, I use them whenever I make homemade ravioli for all my fillings plus it makes the process go much faster and cleaner.


No tip is needed for the bags, you’re just going to snip a little off  the end so the filling can flow through smoothly. Test it out by holding the manicotti tube on a slight angle making sure it flows in nicely, if it doesn’t snip a little more off the end.

To fill the bag easily without the cheese mixture falling out all over the place, I always place the bag into a tall glass which will give you stability when filling it, as noted in the picture above. Fill it 3/4 of the way with a spoon and then grab the bag and squeeze from the top so the filling can fall down to the shaft of the bag where you cut it. The glass also acts as a holder for you and everything stays nice and neat during the whole process.manicotti

You can stuff these tubes with just about anything, but I prefer the creamy cheese manicotti with an addition of either spinach, parsley or basil. By prepping ahead of time with your sauce and cheese mixture it’s really then all about the assembly.manicotti

When making a large amount of manicotti for a party I only boil up one box at a time, then I scoop them out with a spider and quickly rinse with cold water, drain them onto a paper towel lined baking sheet and gently pat dry, then believe it or not I like to place the partially cooked pasta back into those individual slots they lay in from the box, this way it gives you more control and will insure them not sticking together while you’re preparing to stuff them. I do the same procedure if using only one box as well.

By scooping them out you’ll still have your hot pot of boiling water going for your next batch. Depending on how much your making you might loose some of the water but just add to it if needed and let it reboil again.

A very important tip is to cook them only for 5 minutes, I repeat, 5 minutes! Then scoop them out and rinse them under cold water.  I don’t care if the box says cook for 8 minutes or 11 minutes I’m telling you just 5! Besides, they’ll  spend more time baking under foil in the oven so when finished they’ll have the perfect bite.

Oh, and never ever pour them out into a strainer because they’ll stick together and break for sure.


It’s holiday time and baked manicotti is a delicious pasta course to have for your next party or get together. A beautiful individual portion that stands up well by itself or next to anything else you might be serving on the plate, besides there’s always room for pasta!

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Make Ahead Manicotti with Tips and Tricks
  • 1 box of manicotti pasta tubes, 8 oz.
  • 2 quarts prepared marinara, preferably homemade or a good quality store bought
  • 4 cups ricotta, drained of any liquid
  • ½ cup or so grated romano cheese plus extra for garnish
  • 1½ cups of shredded blend of 4 cheeses, Quattro Formaggio ( Trader Joes) or something similar or all mozzarella if you can't find it.
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ½ cup of chopped frozen spinach, (completely drained of liquid) or fresh chopped parley or basil plus
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ( 12 inch disposable decorator bags) a must
  • Everything can be doubled or tripled for a large crowd
  1. Cook manicotti shells in boiling salted water with a teaspoon of olive oil for 5 minutes only, no matter what the back of the box tells you.
  2. After 5 minutes scoop out pasta with a spider then run them quickly under cold water to cool down.
  3. Spread them onto a paper towel lined baking sheet, let them drain a little and gently pat them dry with a paper towel, then lay each tube into the individual slotted holder that they came packaged in the box.
  4. In a large bowl combine the ricotta, romano, shredded cheeses and spinach or herbs, basically everything except the egg yolks, use a hand mixer to get it nice and smooth.
  5. Taste it for enough cheese, salt and pepper, when you are satisfied with the taste add the 2 egg yolks and incorporate it with the hand mixer.
  6. Place a disposable decorator bag into a tall glass for stability ( no tip required) then spoon some of the ricotta mixture into it, filling it three quarters of the way up. Snip off the bottom enough so that the filling squeezes through with ease into the pasta hole.
  7. Spread enough marinara to cover the bottom of your baking dish.
  8. Pick up one pasta tube and tip it on an angle and with your decorator bag start piping the ricotta mix in as far as it goes, if it doesn't reach the other end just flip to that side and fill it up.
  9. Lay it down on top of the marinara sauce and repeat until all are filled.
  10. When all the manicotti are filled spoon more marinara on top with some grated cheese.
  11. Cover with foil.
  12. At this point you can refrigerate the whole pan and the next day take it out a good hour or so before baking to get it close to room temperature.
  13. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees, keep pan covered with foil and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until heated through because ovens do vary.
  14. Remove from the oven, take off the foil and let it set for 5 minutes, spoon some warm sauce on top and garnish with more grated cheese.
  15. Ready to serve!



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  1. Thank you for these wonderful tips my friend!
    I am making stuffed cannelloni for Christmas Eve and I ordered the Wilton piping bags as you recommend! This way I don’t have to use ziploc bags……and I like the stand up in a glass tip…..very helpful!

    • Wonderful tips and that is exactly how we do it. It only took me one time trying to stuff the pasta with a spoon (what a mess) to figure out how much easier a piping bag would be. I haven’t made manicotti in a long time — it’s just the two of us but we’re moving — closer to our kids!! YAY!! I can see more family meals 😍And your post today has inspired me to make a mini-meal for Hubby and me Have a wonderful day!!

    • Oh good, the bags are great to have and there’s 50 in the box!

  2. This sounds delicious and love the tips.

  3. What a gorgeous tray of manicotti. My family would flip over these. Do you ever freeze these-with or without the sauce?

    • I never do Linda, I usually just stuff them the day before. If you can freeze lasagne I’m sure you could freeze these don’t you think?

  4. Carol Szafalowicz says

    Merry Christmas Marie, Loved your tips, laughed so hard because as I read your suggestions and what could happen, well,
    you guessed it, it’s happened to me. Using the piping bag and the cooking time will make a world of difference.
    I’ve stayed away from making Manicotti for those exact two same reasons! It’s usually a hot mess and not pretty so with these
    great tips I’m going to jump right in again and give them a try this coming Sunday. As always I wait for your posts and enjoy reading them, then I reread it, visualize if I could make the dish, reread it again and then go in the kitchen and eat something!
    So thanks for the great tips and extra few pounds I’ve put on since signing up for your posts……….wouldn’t miss them for the world. Merry Christmas to you and your wonderful family, I know one thing for sure, everyone will be eating like Kings and Queens! Warmly, Carol

    • Carol, I love when you said you reread it again then go in the kitchen and eat! ha ha Merry Christmas friend xo

  5. Marie, when I say you post this on IG it brought back many memories and I thought “ why have I let this dish fall to the wayside”. Thanks for reminding me of what a great entree for entertaining Manaicotti is – I plan to prepare it for a post NY gathering. Happy Holidays and thank you so much.

  6. My family has always used the crepe style, which makes filling them easier, but does take a crazy amount of time! That’s probably why I haven’t made them in years. Wondering if it would make sense to put them in a dish standing vertically and fill them from the top, then lay them horizontally on your prepared pan.

    But what I really want to know is how you pronounce them. Mahn-i-gawt? Tell me that’s how you say it!

  7. An oldie but always a goodie!

  8. Thought about making manicotti for Christmas. Your post was the deciding “vote.” 😉
    Buon Natale, Marie!

  9. I made this for my family as part of our Christmas get together at my son’s. Everyone loved it !!!! I made a double recipe and had very little in leftovers. Your tips made it so easy. 5 star recipe. I did add a little grated nutmeg to the filling. I do make my own sauce with boxed marzano tomatoes. Thanks for this special recipe.

  10. I made these manicotti for company that came over Saturday. I served it with a meat sauce and everyone loved them. Thank you for the tips and tricks. Sometimes I don’t know why I don’t make certain dishes. When I do they are always amazing and then I keep asking myself, “Why has it been so long since I made this?” Now the kids are grown and across the country, so it’s just hubby and me- more leftovers for us!

    • I’m so glad everyone loved them Rose, ha ha I feel the same way, I haven’t made them in a while myself. If you get a craving you can always make half a box for you and your hubby now

  11. Years ago I had a recipe (I’ve lost it!) that stuffed uncooked noodles. It was so easy to stuff, but I don’t remember if there was more sauce or liquid??? Have you ever heard of that method – or is it totally non-authentic!!!

    • Yes, I’m not really crazy about that method I think it makes the pasta gummy and the starch releases into the sauce, which you would need extra for sure. Totally non-authentic in my opinion Maria

  12. This looks so good! How many does it serve? I want to make it for my book club of 11.

    • Robin it depends if this is the main course or not, I think each box has 12 pasta noodles inside so figure maybe 2 per person with a few extra