We’ve got Italian comfort food at its best with this stuffed Manicotti filled with soft spinach and creamy ricotta filling in a pan of perfectly seasoned ground beef and marinara sauce. Top with fresh parsley and dairy free cheese for an incredible meal the whole family will love.
Spinach stuffed Manicotti is what dinner dreams are made of.
Rich, filling, cozy, and comfort food at it’s best.
This gluten and dairy free meal is surprisingly super easy to make, yet it looks like you spent hours in the kitchen.
Do you miss ordering Manicotti off the dinner menu at fancy Italian restaurants?
We sure do.
Now we can safely enjoy this meal at home! And you can too.
manicotti ingredients and recipe tips
- grapeseed oil— vegetable or olive oil works too
- diced onion
- garlic clove— minced
- ground beef— Italian sausage or ground turkey works too. Meat is optional as most manicotti recipes do not call for meat. It’s a favorite in our home so we add it in.
- marinara sauce— we use Rao’s Marinara sauce
- manicotti pasta noodles— our go-to is Jovial Manicotti pasta. It can be purchased here.
- dairy free ricotta— you can use a homemade recipe, or our favorite is the creamy Kite Hill Ricotta found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store
- large egg
- fresh spinach— you can omit this or add in even more
- granulated sugar
- ground parsley— always double check your spices are gluten and dairy free
- kosher salt
- ground pepper
- optional fresh Italian parsley— for garnishing over the baked dish before serving
- dairy free cheese— use your favorite dairy free shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese to top this yummy manicotti. We haven’t found a brand we are absolutely in love with yet for this recipe. We lightly topped our Manicotti in these pics with shredded Chao slices
- baking dish— 9×9-inch baking dish works, but we love using our 12×9-inch Le Creusent baking dish best. 6 gluten free manicotti shells fit perfectly in this dish. When doubling this recipe, use a 9×13-inch baking dish.
- serving spatula— we use this serving spatula in the kitchen at least once a week if not more
- aluminum foil— place foil over your dish before transferring it into the oven. It will keep the noodles from drying out during the bake time.. This is an important step not to overlook.
where do you buy gluten free manicotti pasta
These are produced in a dedicated gluten free facility and have a great taste and texture. You’ll think you’ve ordered a dish from a high-end restaurant.
do you cook manicotti shells before filling them
Yes. Only a few minutes in boiling water and these shells are ready to be filled.
We slightly undercook them. They’re not only easier to fill without falling apart, but they’ll also continue to cook and soften as they’re baked.
An important manicotti food hack– after you’ve removed the shells from the boiling water and rinsed them in cold water, place them in single file on a plat
e. The manicotti tend to stick together as they dry and the rip when pulling them apart. This hack prevents that and makes it easier to fill them.
how do you fill manicotti shells
There are two methods to fill your shells.
Our favorite is to use a Ziploc bag or piping bag. Transfer the ricotta mixture into the bag and cut the corner off. Squeeze the mixture out of the piping bag into each end of the shell. This is the easier and less messy way to fill your shells.
Another way is to fill the shells with a small spoon.
what do you serve with manicotti
There are so many different side dishes which flavor well with this dish. We enjoy a side salad with warm garlic breadsticks or sliced baguettes.
And a side of steamed broccoli or green beans is another favorite.
can this recipe be assembled ahead of time
Yes. Cover and refrigerate up to 8 hours, then bake as directed. We do not suggest freezing this dish as gluten free noodles can become soggy.
However oftentimes we make up batches of ground beef and marinara sauce and store them in the freezer. This helps to cut down on meal prep time.
more delicious pasta dinner recipes
- lasagna soup— this one-pot meal is so cozy and comforting. It has all the lasagna flavor without the fuss.
- homemade calzones— stuff all your pizza favorites into this yummy dinner idea
- creamy ricotta stuffed shells— enjoy big pasta shells stuffed with creamy ricotta. This is another Italian dish everyone loves.
- easy skillet lasagna— another one-pot meal. This is a fun and flavorful pasta recipe to make in the kitchen.
- veggie pasta salad— here’s your go-to pasta salad recipe for your next BBQ or get together. It’s loaded with all your favorites and a pasta noodle that doesn’t get soggy.
This Manicotti recipe has flavored ground beef with a creamy spinach ricotta stuffed into tender manicotti shells covered with a delicious pasta sauce and baked to perfection.
You will find this classic recipe to be comfort food your family loves.
And you’d think it took hours in the kitchen to prepare. But the recipe comes together easily with just a few steps.
Have you snooped around our website yet for more must-have recipes?
Did you know we have kid-inspired recipes too? Like this homemade playdough recipe that is so easy to make.
And this post with over 50 snack ideas for kids— adults! We’ve even included fun dipping sauces our kids love.
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Pasta Sauce Ingredients
- 1 tbsp grapeseed oil olive or vegetable oil work too
- ½ onion diced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- ½ lb ground beef Italian sausage or ground turkey work, or you can omit
- 14 oz marinara sauce suggestion in post
Ricotta Filling Ingredients
- 6 gluten free manicotti pasta noodles suggestion in post
- 8 oz dairy free ricotta suggestion in post
- 1 large egg
- ¾ c fresh spinach cut into thin pieces with kitchen shears
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- ½ tbsp ground parsley
- dash salt
- dash ground pepper
- ¼ c optional– add in your favorite dairy free shredded parmesan or mozzarella cheese to the ricotta filling.
- optional garnish– fresh Italian parsley, more dairy free cheese
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Then sauté the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent.
- Add in the ground beef and brown.
- While the beef is cooking, prepare the manicotti noodles according to the package. Prepare noodles slightly undercooked.
- Drain noodles and wash under cold water. Transfer noodles to a plate and arrange noodles side by side without overlapping or touching each other. This will prevent them from sticking together and tearing.
- Once the meat has cooked all the way through and no longer pink, drain the fat. Stir in the marinara sauce, and allow to simmer for 20-25 minutes while you prepare the ricotta. Stir occasionally.
- In a small mixing bowl combine the ricotta, egg, spinach, sugar, ground parsley, salt, and pepper. Optional: add in ¼ cup of your favorite dairy free parmesan or mozzarella cheese.
- Then transfer the mixture to a half gallon Ziploc bag. Cut a corner off and pipe the ricotta mixture into each end of the tender manicotti pasta shell.
- Reserve ½ c. of the marinara meat sauce for a topping, and place the remaining sauce in the bottom of the baking pan. Then arrange each manicotti noodle on top of the meat sauce.
- Next top with the remaining meat sauce over over the noodles. Top with more dairy free cheese.
- Cover the dish with aluminum foil and transfer to the oven for 20 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling on the sides.
- Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes as you garnish with more dairy free cheese, fresh spinach and Italian parsley. Serve and enjoy.
- Cover and refrigerate leftovers up to 3 days. This does taste best right out of the oven.
- The pasta sauce can be prepared ahead of time; we would not suggest freezing this dish as the pasta noodles become soggy.