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These manicotti are stuffed with three cheeses, fresh pesto, and nestled in a spicy bed of arrabbiata sauce. These cheesy pesto stuffed manicotti are fun to make and SO delicious.
With this recipe you can use store bought pesto, but nothing beats freshly made homemade pesto. It is easy to make, with little ingredients.
Making fresh pesto
- Add the fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic cloves, grated parmesan cheese, kosher salt, and black pepper to a food processor.
- Pulse until all the ingredients are chopped.
- Using the pour spout, set the food processor to slow and slowly begin to pour the olive oil in.
- Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. If not using right away, store in an airtight container. Note: it may lose it’s bright green color as it is stored.
The filling of the manicotti consists of: freshly grated parmesan, part-skin low moisture mozzarella, part-skim ricotta cheese, 1 egg, red pepper flakes, and 3/4 cup of the fresh pesto we just made.
Manicotti comes in different sizes, the ones I used were smaller, but any size will work. Ensure they are cooked al dente according to package instruction, you don’t want to overcook and have them break when filling. Manicotti stuffing tip: spoon the filling into a ziplock bag, cut the tip to be the same size as the manicotti hole for easy mess free filling.
Once you have pipped all the pesto filling into the manicotti, top with additional red sauce and the remaining 1/4 cup of the fresh pesto. Top with shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
Bake the manicotti at 375 F for 30 minutes and you can broil for a few seconds at the end to get the browned bubbly cheese.
Carefully remove from the oven and garnish with additional fresh basil and more crushed red pepper flakes if you want more heat.
If you want to make ahead of time, stuff the manicotti with the cheesy pesto mixture and freeze prior to adding the red sauce. When ready to make, add to the red sauce and add an additional 10 minutes to the bake time, totaling 40 minutes bake time. You can also freeze the pesto for later use as well.
Looking for more pesto recipes?
Homemade Pesto, makes 1 cup (see note #1)
- 8 ounces manicotti pasta
- 12 ounces skim ricotta cheese
- 1 1/4 cups low moisture skim shredded mozzarella cheese (divided)
- 1 cup + 3 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese (do not use powdered parmesan)
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (see note #2)
- 28 ounces arrabbiata red sauce (see note #3)
- Garnish: fresh basil
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- In a food processor add: fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, 3 garlic cloves, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper. Pulse until ingredients are chopped.
- With the food processor on low blend, slowly pour the olive oil through the pour spout into the chopped ingredients, until fully combined. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. (See note #4)
Cheesy Pesto Manicotti
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Cook manicotti pasta al dente according to package instruction. Do not overcook or they will fall apart when stuffing. Drain and set aside (you can add a touch of olive oil if they begin to stick to each other)
- In a large bowl add: 12oz ricotta cheese, 1 cup shredded mozzarella, 1 cup grated parmesan, 1 large egg, 3/4 cup of freshly made pesto, and 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes. Using a silicone spatula, mix all the ingredients until they are fully combined.
- In a baking dish, add 3/4 of the red sauce to the bottom of the dish and spread it out evenly, set aside. (See note #5)
- Using a gallon zip lock bag, spoon in the cheesy pesto mixture into the bag and push it all to one corner. Cut a hole in the bottom corner of the bag that will fit the inside circle of the manicotti. Grab an al dente cooked manicotti, insert the tip of the bag inside, squeeze until the manicotti is filled, then place the manicotti in the red sauce inside the baking dish. Repeat until all manicotti are filled.
- Once all the manicotti are filled, drizzle with the remaining 1/4 of the red sauce, the remaining 1/4 cup of the pesto. Top with 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese and 3 tbsp of parmesan cheese.
- Bake for 30 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. If you want the cheese more browned, broil for a few seconds keeping an eye not to burn it. Carefully remove from the oven, top with fresh basil, and serve.
- You can substitute store bought pesto, you will need 1 cup of pesto for the recipe
- Omit the red pepper flakes if you do not like spicy
- You can substitute the arrabbiata sauce for your favorite red sauce if you do not like spicy
- If not using the homemade pesto right away, you can store in an airtight container for 2-3 days, pesto may darken while storing. Or you can freeze for later use in an ice cube tray.
- I recommend choosing a baking dish prior to cooking the manicotti, so you can see if they fit prior, you can also divide them into two dishes
- If you want to make ahead of time, stuff the manicotti with the cheesy pesto mixture and freeze prior to adding the red sauce. When ready to make, add to the red sauce and add an additional 10 minutes to the bake time, totaling 40 minutes bake time.