The Unorthodox Epicure — Cheese Manicotti w/ Béchamel & Marinara

Stuffed Manicotti is one of those dishes that brings old memories to my forefront. I can count on one hand how many times my father served this dish during my childhood.

I enjoyed it every time. So did everyone else.

I’m not sure where Dad discovered it — from a magazine cover in a supermarket checkout line perhaps? His version was simpler (and perhaps better) than mine. He wasn’t so interested in French-sounding toppers or a drizzle of something that was only available in high-end restaurants of the day.

Either way, Stuffed Manicotti is the epitome of delicious. Don’t let the ingredients list make you nervous. This recipe is relatively quick and easy — and can be made well ahead.

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Cheese Manicotti w/ Béchamel & Marinara


Cheese Manicotti w/ Béchamel & Marinara — Warm. Melty. Delicious.


5.0 from 3 reviews
Cheese Manicotti w/ Béchamel & Marinara
Don't let the ingredients list make you nervous. This recipe is relatively quick and easy — and can be made well ahead.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
  • 28 oz can – Crushed tomatoes in puree
  • 3 – Garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 TB – Fresh Basil, chopped
  • 1 TB – Kosher salt
  • 1 TB – Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp – Red pepper flakes
  • 12 – Manicotti
  • 2 cups – Fresh baby spinach
  • ½ cup – Artichoke hearts (in brine), chopped roughly
  • 1½ cups – Ricotta
  • 1 cup – Mozzarella or smoked Provolone, shredded
  • 1 TB – Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 TB – Kosher salt
  • 3 TB – All-purpose flour
  • 3 TB – Butter
  • 2 cups – Hot milk
  • ½ cup – Shredded Parmesan
Make the Marinara
  1. In a large pan, heat olive oil to medium-high.
  2. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Turn off heat.
  4. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Set aside.
Make the filling
  1. In a medium skillet, heat olive oil to medium-high.
  2. Add spinach and salt.
  3. Sautée until just wilted, about 2 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
  5. In a large bowl, combine Ricotta, Mozzarella (or Provolone), artichoke hearts and cooled spinach.
  6. Add salt to taste.
  7. Place in a large zip-close bag, or pastry bag; remove air by forcing the mixture into a corner of the zip bag; cut about ½ inch of the corner from the bag so that you can fill the manicotti by squeezing into one end of the pasta.
Cook the pasta.
  1. Bring about 4 quarts of salted water to a boil and cook pasta for one-half of the recommended cooking time.
  2. Drain and rinse with cool water.
Make the Béchamel
  1. In a medium sauce pan, melt butter over medium-high heat.
  2. Add flour and whisk vigorously (you don't want it to brown) for about 30 seconds or so.
  3. Slowly pour in hot milk while whisking.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring almost constantly, until mixture resembles a thin pancake batter, about 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat; stir in Parmesan.
Let's finish this
  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
  2. Pour all but about 1 cup of the marinara in bottom of 13x9 baking dish.
  3. Using the zip-close bag (or pastry bag), fill each manicotti shell; place atop the sauce.
  4. Drizzle remaining marinara on top of stuffed manicotti.
  5. Pour béchamel over the marinara.
  6. Top with more fresh chopped Basil (about 2 TB) or Basil pesto, if desired.
  7. Cover dish with foil and bake until bubbly and pasta is cooked through, about 35-40 minutes.



  1. My gosh this looks delicious! Such beautiful colors and I bet it tastes divine. Besides, food always tastes better when there’s a great memory attached, right?

    • adamjholland says:

      Thanks, Kelli. Truer words about food and memories haven’t been spoken. I hope to create the same memories for my children. :-)

  2. It’s been so long since I’ve made stuffed manicotti that I forget exactly what I did. But I do remember it was fun to make and so exotic for the middle of Kansas. I like the artichokes in this version. Thanks for this post, I’ll be making some of this very soon….. well, at least when I’m feeling skinny again. :)

    • adamjholland says:

      Do we ever feel skinny, Lea Ann? I mean, I’ve lost 50 pounds in the last year or so. I went from having 24-pack abs to having a 12-pack. But damn if I still don’t feel like an NFL lineman sometimes. ;-)

  3. Dang, another great one for the books! And I just happen to have some marinated arties on hand… hmmm.

  4. Holy Lord – the artichokes and spinach alone drew me in – but bechamel AND marinara? Damn.

  5. Adam, your manicotti is a work of art right down to the baking dish! (I keep staring at the photo, but osmosis and telekinesis aren’t doing the trick to appease my cravings.) Must make!

    By the way, an 80 year old friend of mine grew up around Krebs, OK outside of McAlester — “Home of Cowboys and Italians.” :) He was fed often by an elderly Italian woman and once told me that “white sauce with homemade tomato sauce” was THE authentic way to make Italian food such as lasagne and manicotti. You’re onto something good, fella!

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