This easy Cheesy Italian Sausage Stuffed Manicotti is easy enough for a weekday and tasty enough for a special dinner with friends. Manicotti tubes are stuffed with a mouthwatering Italian sausage filling then smothered in marinara sauce and lots of cheese. It’s fantastic for make-ahead meal prep as you can assemble in advance and chill then have it ready to bake when you’re ready to eat. Chocked full of robust Italian flavors with little fuss.
Italian food and pasta dishes are uber popular in the South. While we love our down home comfort foods, different regions in the South are influenced by those who migrated there. Those who came to our country and settled in particular areas brought with them their style of food and how to make it using the resources available. Fast forward to our lives today and you’ll find Southern cuisine is constantly evolving and inclusive of all types of flavors from all over the world. Dishes like this stuffed manicotti prove it. It’s not all about the gravy, y’all.
What makes this dish easy to assemble? A simple snip using kitchen shears and the shells open up to be filled with ease. No need to use a pastry bag or get frustrated with filling the shells, it’s a cinch using this straightforward technique. Once I started doing this, stuffed manicotti began making an appearance in my kitchen more often with various fillings. More to come, folks there are so many ways to make stuffed pasta like these string cheese manicotti and Mexican chicken manicotti . To top this, you can use your favorite flavor of prepared marinara sauce for a time saver or use my easy homemade pizza sauce to smother these tubular beauties. Assemble it in advance and you’ll have dinner waiting for you when you’re ready to eat.
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- 1 lb Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 medium sweet onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp dry Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to your taste)
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 (8-oz) chive and onion cream cheese, softened
- 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 6 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 2 Tbsp fresh chopped basil
- 12 manicotti shells, cooked to al dente
- 4 cups prepared marinara sauce (your favorite)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spritz the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 2 cups marinara sauce on the bottom of the dish. Set aside.
- Cook the manicotti tubes in boiling salted water per the package instructions until al dente. (around 7 minutes) Remove to paper towels to cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, drizzle a large skillet with olive oil. Add the chopped onion. Cook for 3 minutes over medium-high heat until beginning to brown then add the garlic. Cook for 1 minute longer.
- Add the Italian sausage to the skillet. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until no pink remains, Drain any excess fat from the pan.
- To the cooked sausage add the cream cheese, Italian seasoning, garlic salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over medium heat just until the cream cheese melts and is evenly distributed.
- Remove from the heat and stir in 1½ cup mozzarella cheese, 4 Tbsp Parmesan and chopped basil. Mix well.
- Use a pair of kitchen shears and cut each manicotti shell in a straight line. Fill with 2 heaping Tbsp filling down the middle, then press the ends together to seal. Place seam side down in the dish. Repeat filling all of the shells.
- Cover the top with the remaining 2 cups marinara sauce, spread to cover.
- Cover the manicotti with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese and 2 Tbsp Parmesan.
- Return to the oven and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes until golden and bubbly.
- Rest for 5 minutes on the counter then serve.