This homemade manicotti recipe is fantastic! Learn how to make manicotti crepes (crespelle) from scratch and stuff them with four cheeses and spinach. Top them with my marinara sauce for an authentic Italian meal!
This homemade manicotti with crepes will be one of the best meals of your life.
It's the real deal, folks.
Boxed pasta is great for everyday dinners, but for an authentic Italian manicotti recipe, you need to bust out the crepes (crespelle) from scratch. It's easier than you think!
This recipe makes them thick, sturdy and pasta-like, so there’s no need to worry about flimsy crepes that tear. You’ll fill them with a delicious blend of ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, Romano and spinach — oh yes, my friends.
Then, you’ll top them tomato sauce and extra Parmesan before baking them to hot, cheesy perfection. Yum!!!
Let's get to the details!
Sauce: First, make sure you have six cups of tomato sauce for the manicotti. You can make two batches of my Homemade Marinara Sauce or a batch of my Italian Meat Sauce with Country Ribs and have some left over. You also could make Sunday sauce with Authentic Italian Beef Meatballs.
Spinach: Spinach manicotti are so delicious! Frozen spinach should be thawed, drained and squeezed dry before using it in this recipe. You don't want a runny filling.
Cheeses: Use full-fat ricotta for the best taste and texture. Shred the mozzarella yourself so it will melt better than the pre-shredded cheese in the bag. (The pre-shredded cheese has a powdered coating that prevents smooth melting.)
Use freshly grated Parmesan and Romano, instead of the ones from a can. This will give your manicotti filling the best flavor. I use my Vitamix (affiliate link) to grate them.
How to make manicotti crepes (crespelle)
If you can make pancakes, you can make these crepes!
See the recipe card at the bottom of the post for full instructions, but here's an overview.
- Mix eggs and water in a large mixing bowl, then add flour and salt.
- Beat on low until the batter is smooth. Let the batter chill for 30-60 minutes.
- Cook each manicotti crepe in a greased, 7-inch pan. No need to flip the crepe.
Make the spinach-ricotta filling
You can make the manicotti filling while the crepe batter is resting.
- Placed thawed, dried spinach in a bowl with ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, Romano and black pepper.
- Stir until combined.
Assemble the homemade manicotti
- Start when the crepes have cooled off on a baking rack.
- Place a crepe on a flat surface, with the browned side facing up. Scoop ⅓ cup of cheese filling onto the crepe. Press the filling down so there is a one-inch border around it.
- Roll the manicotti crepe tightly and place it seam-side down in a greased baking pan lined with sauce. Top with sauce and Parmesan.
Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F.
Homemade manicotti recipe tips
- Letting the manicotti crepe batter rest for at least 30-60 minutes in the refrigerator will improve the texture of your crespelle.
- The best way to grease the crepe pan is to spray a paper towel with cooking spray and then use it to wipe the pan. If you spray the pan directly, the crepes will slide around too much.
- Placing the filling on the browned side of the crepe will ensure that the smooth, yellow side will show when you roll it up. It looks much nicer!
Making manicotti ahead of time
It's convenient to make manicotti crepes ahead of time. Cook the crepes, let them cool, then stack them with a layer of wax paper between each one.
You can cover and refrigerate the crepes for a couple days before using them, or freeze them in a freezer bag. Thaw frozen crepes overnight in the refrigerator and proceed to assemble your manicotti.
How to freeze homemade manicotti
It's best to freeze stuffed manicotti without baking them first. Top them with sauce and Parmesan, then cover your pan with a double layer of foil and freeze.
How to pronounce manicotti
Some people say "manigot," but it's “mah nee coh tee,” for the record.
I’ll never forget when, as a teenager, I invited my friend over for dinner. She’s not Italian and had no clue what Mom was saying as she repeatedly offered her some manicotti.
“Huh?” My friend was puzzled.
“WOULD YOU LIKE SOME MANNA CODDY?” I interjected, anxious to end the awkward moment.
“Oh!” Now my friend understood. “Yes, I’d love some!”
What to serve with homemade manicotti
Make this baked manicotti for holidays or a fabulous Sunday dinner. It's a filling meal served with The Best Italian Green Salad, but you could follow it up with Italian Chicken Cutlets or Easy Sausage and Peppers in the Oven for a feast!
Frequently asked questions
In Italy, "manicotti" refers to crepes stuffed with cheese filling and baked. Cannelloni refers to pasta sheets that are rolled and stuffed, often with meat and cheese, and baked.
In America, large pasta tubes are sold as "manicotti." In Italy, those pasta tubes would be called "cannelloni," which translates to "large reeds."
You can bake frozen manicotti without thawing them first. Bake at 350 degrees F, covered, for 45 minutes.
More recipes like this
- Traditional Italian Lasagna with Ricotta
- Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats
- Pasta al Forno with Smoked Mozzarella
- Mom's Spinach-Ricotta Pie
- 50 BEST Spinach Recipes
If you make this homemade manicotti recipe, be sure to leave a comment and a rating!
With my Pasta & Sauces collection, even a beginner can cook like an Italian nonna!
Homemade Manicotti with Crepes (Crespelle)
- 6 extra-large eggs
- 12 ounces cold water
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup freshly grated Romano cheese
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 5 ounces chopped frozen spinach, thawed (drained & squeezed dry)
- 6 cups marinara sauce
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (plus extra for serving)
Manicotti Crepes (Crespelle)
- For the crepe batter, add the eggs and water to a large mixing bowl. Beat with a mixer on low, just until combined.
- Add the flour and salt, and beat on low until the batter is smooth, with no lumps. Let the batter rest for 30-60 minutes in the refrigerator. This will help provide a better texture for your crepes. (You can make the cheese filling during this time.)
- After the batter has rested for at least 30 minutes, it’s time to make the crepes. Lightly grease a 7-inch pan by spraying some oil on a paper towel and wiping your pan with it. (If you have two pans of this size, you can use both.) Heat the pan on the stove over medium heat.
- Scoop out ¼ cup of batter into a liquid measuring cup, and when your pan is hot, pour the ¼ cup of batter into the center of the pan. Gently swirl the pan, if needed, until the bottom is fully covered with the batter. Cook the crepe just until the top is set, which should take 1-2 minutes. Do not flip the crepe. Slide the crepe out of the pan and onto a cooling rack.
- Continue cooking the rest of your crepes (there should be at least 12 total.) When you run out of space on your cooling racks, you can transfer the cooled crepes to a plate, stacking them with a sheet of wax paper between each one.
Manicotti Filling (enough for 12 crepes)
- Thaw the frozen spinach in the microwave. Heat it one minute at a time, until it’s thawed. Drain the spinach in a fine-mesh strainer and let it sit while you make the rest of the filling.
- Add the ricotta to a medium bowl. Shred the mozzarella. (You can use a food processor or blender.) Add the mozzarella to the ricotta.
- Grate the Parmesan and Romano, if needed. (I grate chunks of cheese in my blender.) Add the grated Parmesan and Romano to your bowl, along with the black pepper.
- Squeeze the spinach dry and add it to the bowl of cheese filling. Stir until combined. Cover and refrigerate the filling until your crepes are ready to be filled.
Assemble & Bake the Manicotti
- When the crepes are cooked and cooled off, you can assemble the manicotti. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 10x15 baking pan (or two 9x13 pans) with cooking spray. Add a layer of tomato sauce to the bottom of your baking pan(s).
- On a cutting board or clean work surface, place a crepe with the browned side facing up. (This is so the yellow side will show when you roll it up.) Place ⅓ cup of ricotta filling in the center of the crepe, pressing it down gently until there is a 1-inch border of crepe around it. Roll the crepe tightly into a cylinder and place it seam-side down in your baking pan.
- Continue filling and rolling the crepes (there should be 12), arranging them in a single layer in your baking pan(s). If you find you have extra crepes, you can save them to enjoy with sauce or fill them with any extra spinach and cheese and add them to your baking pan. Ladle some sauce over the manicotti, until they are all covered. Sprinkle three tablespoons of Parmesan over the top.
- Cover your pan(s) with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the manicotti are hot. Serve the manicotti with extra sauce and Parmesan.
- Store leftover manicotti in the refrigerator for up to four days. See notes for freezing and make-ahead instructions.
(Recipe Source: Adapted from my Mom. Homemade Manicotti recipe originally published on Food Fanatic and here on April 12, 2017. Updated now with new photos and additional information.)
Absolutely delicious. For me I make the shells the day before, stack as you suggested, next day stuff and bake. Love these so much, better than those store bought tubes. Thank you so much. Merry Christmas
Hi Helen - Merry Christmas! I'm so glad to hear you love this homemade manicotti.
These manicotti are dreamy! Can't wait to make them again tonight.
Hi Chris - I agree! I'm so happy you think so. Thanks for letting me know!
Karen & T
One of our favorite dishes. So simple and amazingly delicious. The tip to chill the crepes before cooking in the pan was a game changer.
Hi Karen & T - I'm so happy to hear that! This is one of our favorites too.
I’ve been making Manicotti (shells) from scratch for over 50 years. This recipe is almost exact to my original. So light and fluffy.
Back when I started making these, my Italian husband wasn’t satisfied with JUST a cheese filling so I started making a meat filling. One side of the casserole is ‘cheese’ filled the other side is ‘meat’ filled. My family LOVES both.
For those who dare to color outside the lines: brown 90/10 ground beef, drain any grease, let cool slightly then add bread crumbs, chopped onion and garlic and an egg or two, seasoning of your liking such as italian mix, salt pepper, add grated mozzarella and parmigiana: Mix until combined then put filling on the shell, roll and place in marinara lined 9x13 pan. Due to being ‘old school’ I don’t measure anything, so for ‘newbies’ use a recipe for Italian meatballs to get your seasonings just right for a delicious meat filling.
Bake as stated above in Mamma C’s recipe…No need to add additional baking time as meat is already cooked. Thank you Mamma for keeping traditions going.
Hi Debbie - I'm so glad you enjoyed this recipe! Thanks for sharing a ground meat version.
My Italian father in law made this a couple weeks ago & my family couldn’t stop thinking about how delicious it I was. We’ve never had manicotti in crepes before. I decided to randomly google a recipe & found yours! So happy I did because my family couldn’t stop raving about it! It’s definitely a keeper! Thank you so much! Keep posting your recipes! 👍 I’m making your meatballs & pasta sauce tomorrow!
Hi Lori - I love hearing that! Thanks for letting me know, and enjoy the meatballs and sauce!
This recipe is EXCEPTIONAL!! Thank you so much for sharing it. I now make it regularly and it is one of our special dinner options It is the best!
Hi Babs - Your comment made my day! You're welcome!
Delicious, easy and inexpensive. And I can't even cook.
I used a Rose sauce with evaporated milk.
This is a keeper.
Hi Jennifer - See, you CAN cook! I'm so happy you enjoyed the manicotti.
Loved these! I Googled sturdy homemade manicotti and this came up 🙂 I used to make them light and fluffy but I was never crazy about them that way. These were so much better!
Hi Barb - I love hearing that! Thanks for letting me know.
Thank you for sharing this recipe. I made it the first time last year because I couldn't find the noodles in the store, now there is No going back it is Sooooooo much Better with the crepes. Thank you again!
Hi Fern - You're welcome! I'm so glad you enjoyed these.