This is the best Baked Manicotti recipe ever! Each manicotti is filled with a mixture of ground beef and mozzarella cheese (not ricotta cheese) and then layered in a delicious homemade tomato sauce and covered with both parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. It is heavenly! This luscious main dish has a fabulous taste! I’ve made this special pasta for John’s birthday almost every year for the past 30 years. It’s a great recipe–in fact, it’s the best manicotti recipe I’ve ever tried and I’ve made plenty throughout the years.
I found this recipe in a magazine back in the 1980s but I don’t remember which one or who the author is. It’s such an involved recipe it probably was not a recipe from a company selling a product but, rather, a recipe submitted to some magazine. All I know is it’s wonderful. One of the secret ingredients in this recipe is fennel seed. I have made this recipe with and without the fennel seed. It has a far superior taste with the fennel seed. So if you choose to make this recipe, then go out and purchase a spice jar of fennel seed so you can make it right. You will be glad you did.
One of the great things about this recipe is you don’t have to pre-cook the manicotti. You stuff the manicotti and it cooks in the large amount of sauce this recipe provides. I make sure the noodles are fully covered so they don’t scorch or dry out during cooking. This recipe is involved and it takes a few hours to make, but it is so worth it! Everyone loves my manicotti. I think you will too.
When I originally posted this recipe in December of 2012, I made it for John’s staff Christmas party. The pictures were lousy and in no way adequately conveyed the loveliness of this wonderful pasta dish. I was still new to the blogging world then and wasn’t all that great with a camera. This isn’t the easiest recipe to photograph anyway, but I’ve added some new pictures in August 2014. Hopefully, these ones will tantalize your taste buds. 🙂
This recipe is featured at All Free Casserole Recipes here.
Baked Manicotti is the BEST manicotti you’ll ever eat! We love this recipe for holiday entertaining.
Our company dug into this main dish really quickly! Baked Manicotti has a lot of meat and cheese and a spectacular homemade tomato sauce.
One of the things that sets this recipe apart is the recipe includes fennel seeds in the sauce. What amazing flavors they add to the sauce.
Here’s what I did.
I used these ingredients to make the sauce.
Place olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add chopped onion and minced garlic. Saute.
Add a large 29-oz. can of each of the following: crushed, diced, whole tomatoes AND tomato puree.
Add seasonings. Cover with lid and cook over medium heat as mixture simmers for one hour.
Mash the whole tomatoes up against the edge of the stock pot and cut them up into smaller pieces with my wooden spoon. Reduce heat to low.
I used these ingredients to make the stuffed manicotti shells.
To make filling for shells: Place about 3 tablespoons olive oil in skillet. Add onion and saute. Add minced garlic. I used 1 heaping teaspoon from a jar.
Add ground beef and fry. I used 2 lbs.
Place ground beef mixture in a large mixing bowl. Add seasonings and egg.
Add half of the mozzarella cheese and 1 1/2 cups of the sauce.
Mix all ingredients together.
Spray two large 10×15″ baking dishes with cooking spray. Spread about 1/2 cup tomato sauce on the bottom of sprayed baking dish.
Stuff manicotti shells with filling. I use my hands. Place your left fingers in the bottom side so the mixture doesn’t come out while stuffing. Stuff mixture with your right hand. I’ve tried doing this with a spoon, also, but it seems to work better using my hands.
Place manicotti shells on top of sauce in baking dish and make one layer of shells. Repeat the process and place all of the manicotti in two large baking dishes. (These are larger than 9×13). This recipe makes 33-35 stuffed manicotti shells.
Cover the manicotti shells with the tomato sauce. Make sure no parts of the shells are visible or they will dry out and harden during cooking time or even scorch. The manicotti will cook as the casserole is baking in the oven because of all the liquid in the tomato sauce. It’s so wonderful not having to pre-cook the manicotti!
Sprinkle parmesan cheese over top of the casseroles. I used about 3/4 cup of cheese on each one.
Cover the casseroles with aluminum foil. Bake about 60-75 minutes at 350. Remove foil from pan. The parmesan cheese will not stick to the foil, but if you put the mozzarella cheese on before this step it sticks to the foil. Yikes!
Spread mozzarella cheese over top of casserole and bake another 10 minutes or so until cheese has melted.
This recipe makes two huge casseroles. You can easily freeze one of them before baking.
The savory flavor of Baked Manicotti is terrific. We can’t get enough of this amazing Italian entree.
This is the texture of this scrumptious pasta dish.
Here’s the recipe.
(Our favorite recipe though a lot of work – adapted from a magazine)
- [b]TOMATO SAUCE:[/b][br]
- 32-oz. tomato puree
- ¼ cup parsley
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 2 tsp. salt
- 3 tsp. oregano
- 1 tsp. basil
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 cups finely chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 29-oz. cans crushed tomatoes, undrained
- 2 15-oz. cans petite diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 tsp. fennel seed (this spice really makes the difference)
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- 29-oz. can whole tomatoes, undrained[br]
- [b]FILLED SHELLS:[/b][br]
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 lbs. ground chuck
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. oregano
- ½ tsp. basil
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed (I just slice it or use the stuff already minced in a jar)
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 16-oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded (I think I use more than this)
- 2 cups grated parmesan cheese
- 3 pkgs. Manicotti shells [b](DO NOT PRECOOK)[/b]
- [b]TOMATO SAUCE:[/b] [br]
- In ½ cup hot oil in large saucepan, sauté 2 cups onion and 2 cloves garlic, 5 minutes, until tender.
- Add rest of sauce ingredients.
- Bring to boil.
- Lower heat; simmer, covered, 1 hour, stirring occasionally. [br]
- [b]SHELLS:[/b] [br]
- In 3 tbsp. hot oil in large skillet, sauté 1 cup onion and 2 cloves garlic, 5 minutes, until tender; remove.
- In same skillet, brown beef, stirring occasionally.
- With slotted spoon, transfer beef to onion mixture.
- Add egg, salt, herbs, pepper and 1 ½ cups sauce.
- Add 8-oz. shredded mozzarella cheese; stir into meat mixture.
- With small spoon, fill raw manicotti with meat mixture.
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Spoon 1-2 cups sauce in bottom of 2 10×15” baking pans.
- Arrange 3 rows of manicotti lengthwise (8 across).
- Cover with remaining sauce; sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
- Bake, covered with foil for 1 hour or 1 hour 15 minutes.
- Mixture will start bubbling.
- Remove foil, divide 8 oz. shredded mozzarella over the tops of shells in both pans.
- Bake, uncovered, an additional 10 minutes or until cheese melts.
- This makes about 35-40 shells – enough to serve at a large family gathering and put one pan in the freezer for later.
Doesn’t Baked Manicotti look yummy? It tastes yummy, too. It really is a spectacular pasta recipe even though it takes several hours to assemble and bake it.
This is one of the BEST manicotti recipes you’ll ever eat. It’s filled with meat and cheese in a superb marinara sauce.
Baked Manicotti is the recipe I make for John’s birthday every year. It’s a fabulous recipe for company and special occasions. I made this the day ahead and refrigerated it. Then I put it on a time-bake the next day since we were gone. When I got home, all I had to do was add the mozzarella cheese on top. It was wonderful.
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