Three Cheese Manicotti with Italian Sausage Marinara

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Three Cheese Manicotti with Italian Sausage Marinara is the BEST manicotti recipe out there! It’s saucy, cheesy and downright delicious! Manicotti shells are stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheese, then covered in a delicious Italian sausage and red wine marinara sauce. 

Serve this baked manicotti recipe with Cheesy Garlic Bread Nachos and Crispy Eggplant Caprese Salad for one seriously scrumptious Italian feast! 

Baked manicotti in casserole dish topped with fresh basil leaves

I am TOTALLY obsessed with this manicotti recipe! It’s full of my favorite things, cheesy filled pasta, flavorful Italian sausage and rich, hearty marinara sauce. It was also the first dish I ever made Kurt and is still his most requested recipe on the blog!

In this dish, I combined tomatoes with Italian sausage and Italian seasoning to make a hearty, flavorful sauce for the manicotti. Speaking of the manicotti, it’s stuffed FULL of delicious cheeses! This dish is one cheesy, flavorful good time!

While it does take a little time to prep, you can easily double the recipe and freeze one dish for later. I always do this because it’s Kurt’s favorite recipe! And anytime that I can save time on a future dinner, I’m totally in!

Cheese manicotti on plate, topped with marinara sauce and fresh basil leaves

What is manicotti?

Manicotti literally means “little sleeve”. This Italian American dish consists of “little sleeves” of tube-shaped pasta filled with cheese. The pasta can also be filled with meats, like ground beef or Italian sausage. The dish is traditionally topped with sauce and baked in the oven.

How to make Cheese Manicotti

  • Prepare the marinara sauce.
    • Pour olive oil into a large skillet on the stove over medium high heat.
    • Add diced onions, cook 3-4 minutes, add minced garlic and cook for an additional minute.
    • Add loose Italian sausage and cook through.
      • Quick Tip! This recipe is easily made vegetarian by omitting the sausage in the marinara sauce.
    • Once the sausage is cooked, add red wine, tomato paste, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce to the skillet.
    • Season with Italian seasoning.
    • Reduce to low, cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes.
  • Prepare the three cheese manicotti.
    • Bring a large pot of water to boil.
    • Add manicotti shells to the water and cook for 4-5 minutes, drain, then set aside.
      • Quick Tip! After cooking and draining, separate the pasta shells and place them in a single layer on a cutting board to cool. This will prevent them from sticking together and potentially tearing apart when filling them.
    • In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese. Add basil, parsley and oregano.
    • Fill the manicotti shells with the cheese mixture.
      • Quick Tip! This can be done by using a small spoon and your fingers to stuff the cheese into the shells. It can also be done by placing the cheese mixture in a large plastic bag. Cut the corner of the bag and pipe the cheese into the shells.
  • Put the dish together.
    • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
    • Pour half of the Italian Sausage Marinara in a 9 inch x 13 inch baking dish.
    • Place the cheese filled shells in a single layer over the marinara sauce.
    • Pour the remaining sauce over the manicotti.
    • Top with shredded mozzarella cheese.
    • Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Instructional images for how to make cheese manicotti with marinara sauce

Do you cook manicotti shells before stuffing them?

Yes, manicotti shells should be cooked in boiling water until al dente before stuffing them. Be sure not to overcook the pasta shells or they will easily tear while filling.

How long does leftover manicotti last in the refrigerator?

Leftover manicotti can be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. To reheat, place back in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes. Or microwave the leftovers in a microwave-safe dish for 2-3 minutes.

Can you freeze leftover manicotti?

Yes. As I mentioned before, I like to make an extra dish of manicotti and freeze it for later. Extra or leftover manicotti will last in the freezer for up to 6 months. Be sure to store it in an airtight container so that it does not get freezer-burn.

To cook frozen manicotti, I recommend defrosting the dish in the refrigerator for 24 hours. You can then bake the dish at 350°F for 25 – 30 minutes.

How to make Vegetarian Manicotti

This manicotti recipe is easy to make vegetarian. Omit the Italian sausage in the marinara sauce. Veggies, such as diced zucchini or finely chopped cauliflower can be used in place of the sausage. Be sure to use vegetarian parmesan-style cheese instead of traditional parmesan cheese in the three-cheese filling.

Manicotti on plate with fresh basil leaves and copper forks

What to serve with Manicotti – drinks, sides and apps, oh my!

Cheese manicotti on plate with marinara sauce and fresh basil
5 from 4 votes
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Three Cheese Manicotti with Italian Sausage Marinara

Three Cheese Manicotti with Italian Sausage Marinara is the BEST manicotti recipe out there! It's saucy, cheesy and downright delicious!

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 908 kcal
Author Whitney Bond

Ingredients

Italian Sausage Marinara

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup onions diced
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 lb Italian Sausage loose or ground
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 28 oz can petite diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp Italian Seasoning click link for homemade recipe

Three Cheese Manicotti

  • 30 oz ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese divided
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup fresh basil chopped
  • ½ tsp dried parsley
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 12 manicotti shells uncooked

Instructions

Italian Sausage Marinara

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the diced onions, cook 3-4 minutes then add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  2. Add the sausage and cook through.
  3. Add the red wine, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and Italian seasoning.

  4. Reduce to low, cover and simmer 20-30 minutes.

Three Cheese Manicotti

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
  3. Add the manicotti shells and cook 4-5 minutes, drain, then set aside in an even layer on a cutting board to cool.

  4. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, fresh basil, parsley and oregano.

  5. Place this mixture in a piping bag, or ziploc bag with a cut corner.
  6. Pipe the cheese mixture into the manicotti shells.
  7. Pour half of the Italian Sausage Marinara in a 9 inch x 13 inch baking dish.

  8. Place the filled manicotti shells in a single layer on top of the sauce.

  9. Pour the remaining sauce over the shells.
  10. Top with the remaining cup of mozzarella cheese.
  11. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Recipe Notes

  • Freezing Manicotti: before baking this manicotti recipe, it can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 6 months. To defrost the manicotti, place it in the refrigerator for 24 hours, then bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes.
  • Vegetarian Manicotti: to make this recipe vegetarian, omit the sausage from the marinara sauce. Two cups of diced zucchini or finely chopped cauliflower can be added in it's place, if desired. Also be sure to use vegetarian parmesan-style cheese instead of traditional parmesan in the cheese filling.