There’s no need to go to an Italian restaurant to enjoy delicious homemade manicotti. Now you can make them right at home with my tried-and-true family recipe. These Italian-style crepes are not only easy to make, but represent the beauty of an Italian homemade meal.
This recipe uses a cheese stuffing that is full of Italian flavors. They are then baked in the oven with your favorite tomato sauce which is absorbed into the pasta, giving every bite a taste of Italy.
I’m excited to share how to make the crepes, called crespelle, but also how to make the filling and how to bake them in the oven. Follow my step by step instructions and let’s get to cooking!
Homemade Manicotti Crepes Recipe
This manicotti recipe holds a lot of special memories for me. Just thinking about it I can remember the texture of the manicotti along with the flavor and the smell from so many years ago.
I can see mom bringing in the big baking dish filled with the rolled manicotti covered in her homemade sauce. And I remember the anticipation the whole family had, ready to dive in and take the first bite!
My mom learned this recipe from her Italian mother-in-law and has stayed true to it ever since. This recipe will make about 20 individual manicotti.
What is Manicotti?
Manicotti is an Italian dish that is commonly prepared for special occasions such as Christmas, Christmas Eve and other holidays.
Manicotti are the large pasta tubes, which we often call crepes (when homemade). They are made from a batter that is similar to a crepe. They are stuffed with a mix of Italian cheeses; the most common is ricotta.
Therefore, they’re often called manicotti crepes.
These manicotti crepes are usually only about 4 inches in length. They are rolled up and baked in a pan usually a 9×13 or similar. And of course they are covered with Italian marinara pasta sauce.
Homemade Manicotti are the Best
A true authentic manicotti recipe is made from scratch, the kind I grew up with. I saw someone claiming an authentic recipe – but it was clear they were using a popular brand of pre-made manicotti shells. Ugh!
They obviously aren’t Italian – at all!
If you buy a store-bought manicotti shell and make your own filling, it’s still not truly authentic. The flavor and the texture are completely different.
Anyway, before I really go off, let’s continue.
Crepe Batter Ingredients
Here are the ingredients for the simple crepe batter.
- Flour. White flour is perfect.
- Eggs. We use whole eggs.
The batter is very similar to a crepe, but not as thin. Manicotti are slightly thicker, but not as thick as a tortilla.
If it were as thin as a crepe it would not hold its shape and likely fall apart while baking in the oven.
Manicotti Filling Ingredients
We covered the ingredients for the actual batter itself, so let’s now make the filling and bake them. Here are the ingredients required.
- Butter (or olive oil). This is needed to grease the bottom of the pan to prevent any potential sticking for the crepes, and in the baking dish.
- Ricotta. Use whole milk ricotta which has a creamy texture to it and more flavor than part-skim. If trying to be healthier – check out my substitutions further down.
- Romano or Parmesan cheese. I use Romano which I freshly grate from a block of cheese using my Cuisinart processor. But you can use Parmesan cheese instead. Either is fine.
- Shredded mozzarella cheese. My ideal preference is taking a fresh ball of mozzarella and grating it by hand, but this isn’t always possible. So if you have a bag of shredded or grated mozzarella feel free to use that.
- Dried parsley. Sure you can use fresh if you’re loaded with it, but dried parsley is totally fine.
- Garlic powder. I prefer the powder over fresh cloves of garlic because the powder will not be as potent. This is not a heavy garlic flavored dish (I love garlic). Besides, we get lots of flavor from the sauce don’t forget.
- Black pepper. This is optional.
- Your favorite pasta sauce. Ideally, use a homemade Italian sauce like my marinara sauce. Or if you’re short on time and don’t have any jarred sauce, then try my marinara sauce using tomato paste.
Avoid sauces with heavy meats in it like chunks of sausage or meatballs. If yours has that, then just remove the meat and serve separately in a nice pasta serving bowl.
Step by Step Instructions
Alright, finally! We’re at the good stuff. Now it’s time to put it all together! I’m giving you lots of tips and images below to make this as easy as possible so your manicotti comes out just as delicious as mine.
Specific measurements are in the recipe card at the end of this post.
Make the manicotti crepes first
1- Combine the flour, water, and eggs in a medium bowl. Mix until the batter is very smooth. You can use a whisk for this.
2- Heat your skillet over medium-low heat and add a drop of butter to grease the bottom. If using a crepe pan, you won’t need to grease the bottom.
3- Take your batter and drop an 1/8th of a cup of the batter in the center of the skillet and immediately swirl the pan around so that the batter spreads to about 4” in diameter, creating a nice circle.
The batter heats up quickly so it’s just easier to use the pan to spread it than the spoon or a some other utensil.
4- Let the manicotti/crepe cook for about 20 seconds until it is pliable. Flip it over and cook the other side for an additional 20 seconds. The edges of the crepe will loosen from the bottom of the pan. Don’t let them burn.
PRO TIP: Don’t forget that the manicotti will still need to cook in the oven, so don’t worry about undercooking the crepes.
5- When it’s ready to be removed, place the cooked crepes on a plate to cool. It’s okay if they overlap.
6- Repeat this process until all the batter is used up. You should have about 20 of them.
Make the cheese mixture and stuff the manicotti
Okay, now that we made the crepes, we’re ready to make the filling, form the manicotti and bake them!
1- Preheat the oven to 375F.
2- Take a little butter or olive oil and grease the bottom of the baking dish.
3- Spread a layer of sauce on the bottom of the dish, feel free to be liberal with it. You can always grab more sauce if you need it later.
4- Next, in a medium bowl, combine half of the Romano (or Parmesan) cheese, and all the other ingredients. Mix well until all the cheeses are combined with the seasonings. We’ll use the rest of the Romano cheese at the end later.
5- Now take one of the manicotti crepes in your hand and place 1 to 2 Tablespoons of the filling in the center of the crepe. Fold the manicotti in thirds so it creates a rolled tube.
6- Place the rolled manicotti seam side down in the baking dish and repeat this process until all the manicotti and the ricotta cheese mixture is used up.
PRO TIP: If you run out of space, you can layer the manicotti – but only once. Some say to never do this, and I wouldn’t if serving at a restaurant, but at home for our purposes it is fine. Just make sure to cover each layer of manicotti pasta with your tomato sauce. Don’t stack more than two layers.
7- End with a final layer of sauce and top with the remaining cheese.
8- Cover with foil (I use parchment and then foil personally), and bake for 40 minutes. The sauce will be bubbling when done and it will smell amazing!
PRO TIP: Any remaining sauce should be served in a saucer so people can add additional sauce as they want when served. The crepes will absorb a lot of the sauce, which helps make it so flavorful throughout.
Recipe Substitutions & Variations
We all have various tastes and maybe the recipe you remember is slightly different than the one I grew up with. Feel free to substitute any ingredients. Here are some common variations.
- Use what you have. If you don’t have mozzarella, don’t worry about it. If you have Parmesan instead of Romano, totally fine. But you need the ricotta.
- Substitute some cheese with Greek yogurt. If you’re concerned about the amount of cheese, try swapping 1/3rd of the ricotta with plain Greek yogurt or even cottage cheese. And if you’re wondering, yes I have done this with the Greek yogurt and you’d never know! Cottage cheese can also be used but try to drain the liquid as it can get pretty runny.
- Add some spinach to the filling. In fact you can use the filling recipe from my spinach manicotti recipe here. Just make sure to thaw and drain the spinach before adding it to the ricotta mixture.
- Add additional Italian herbs. My recipe only uses dried parsley, but you can also add fresh basil or some dried basil as well. However, don’t go overboard because too many Italian seasonings may overpower the delicacy of the tender crepes.
Preparation & Storage Tips
Here are some helpful tips for proper preparation and storage.
Can this manicotti crepes recipe be made in advance
Yes, this entire manicotti recipe can be made a day in advance and stored in the fridge tightly covered. Remove before baking so it has time to warm up. Otherwise add about 10 minutes to the baking time.
You can also freeze it in advance. Prepare the dish and don’t bake it. Let the frozen manicotti thaw overnight in the fridge. Make sure it’s completely thawed so that it bakes evenly.
How to store in the fridge and freezer
If you have leftovers, you can store them in an air tight container up to 5 days in the fridge and for 3-6 months in the freezer.
How to reheat
Reheating manicotti couldn’t be easier. Either microwave them, or if it’s a large amount, preheat the oven to 350F and bake for 15-20 minutes covered, or until heated through.
You can also steam them in a covered pan on the stove.
Suggestions for Side Dishes
Garlic bread. Italian garlic bread is perfect for dipping in the sauce. Use my easy recipe for making garlic bread.
Italians love to serve their meatballs on the side, why not do the same? Here’s my recipe for easy all beef Italian meatballs.
This recipe for peppers sausage and onions is a must-have. It not only smells amazing but it’s easy to make and goes great as a side for manicotti.
For additional ideas check out all our Italian side dishes.
Similar Pasta Recipes You May Enjoy
Italian spinach and ricotta stuffed shells is very similar in the baking process to manicotti. If you like manicotti you’ll love these.
My spinach manicotti recipe is very similar to this manicotti recipe. You can use store bought shells or use the homemade version above.
This baked pasta recipe isn’t a stuffed pasta dish, but talk about easy! Toss it all together and bake in the oven.
I hope you enjoy my manicotti crepes recipe and the filling. Let me know in the comments below if you made any changes to make it your own, or if you have your own family recipe you’d like to share. If you liked the recipe, please consider giving a nice star rating. 😊
Manicotti Crepes (Homemade)
Manicotti Pasta Ingredients
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup water
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 Tbsp butter or olive oil for greasing the skillet
Manicotti Filling & Baking
- 1 1/2 cups ricotta whole milk
- 1 cup Romano (1/2 for filling, 1/2 for topping)
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella from a bag, or shredded fresh.
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup dried parsley
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/8 tsp cracked black pepper
- 2 cups pasta sauce use half on the bottom and the rest between layers and on the top.
Make the Manicotti Pasta
- Mix the flour, water, and eggs until smooth. It should resemble a batter slightly thicker than crepes.1 cup flour, 1 cup water, 4 eggs
- Grease a skillet with the butter and heat to medium-low heat.1/2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
- When hot, pour 1/8 cup of batter onto the skillet and swirl around to spread it out to about 4 inches in diameter. Keep it as circular in shape as you can. If you are new to this, it may take a few times to get comfortable doing this.
- Heat in skillet for about 20-30 seconds on each side. Do not let it burn. Either reduce the time or the temperature if they start to brown. They should look and feel slightly stretchy. They should also be slightly thicker than crepes, but not as thick as a tortilla.
- Remove from skillet using a spatula and place on a plate to cool. It's okay if they overlap.
Preparing and Baking the Manicotti
- Preheat oven to 375F
- Spread half of the sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. We'll use the rest between layers and on top.2 cups pasta sauce
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the half the Romano cheese with all of the remaining ingredients. This is your filling.1 1/2 cups ricotta, 1 cup Romano (1/2 for filling, 1/2 for topping), 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella, 1/4 cup dried parsley, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/8 tsp cracked black pepper, 1 egg
- Take each manicotti in your hand and place 1 to 2 Tbsp of filling in each crepe. Fold it over twice to wrap the filling. Place seam side down in the baking dish.
- Place the manicotti in a single layer in the baking dish. It's okay to layer them if you're tight on space, or just use a second baking dish. Don't layer more than twice.
- Layer with the remaining sauce and top with the rest of the Romano cheese.
- Cover and bake at 375F for 35-40 minutes, you'll see the sauce bubbling. Do not let the manicotti burn.
- Homemade manicotti are very different than store bought ones. They are more delicate and often smaller in size. I estimate 3-4 per person – but adjust to your needs. This recipe will make approximately 20-22 manicotti that are 4 inches in diameter.
- You can stack the manicotti in two layers, but no more. Make sure to add sauce in between the layers.
- If you prefer a cheesier type cheese, then top the manicotti with whole milk shredded mozzarella instead of the Romano.
- You can also use a spinach manicotti filling instead of plain.
- These can be made 1 day in advance. Add an extra 10 minutes baking time if placing in the oven without letting them get to room temperature first.