The Leali Sister Recipes: Manicotti


Photo by Joelle Leali

By Nikki, Jenna, and Josie Leali


The Italian word, manicotti, translates to “little sleeve.” Traditionally, the dish is served as meat- and cheese-stuffed noodles covered in marinara sauce. Enjoy this recipe for some of the best manicotti!

Manicotti ingredients:

  • 4 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, medium chopped
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 14 pieces (8 oz.) manicotti noodles
  • 15 oz. whole-milk ricotta
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cups marinara sauce (see below)


(optional) Sauce ingredients:Yields roughly 3 cups.

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, medium chopped
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 35 oz. whole peeled Italian tomatoes (canned)
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste


(optional)  Sauce steps:

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. 
  2. Add the garlic cloves, stirring occasionally over medium heat, and cook down until golden (roughly 5 minutes).
  3. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring for 1 minute.
  4. Add the tomatoes. Use the spoon to flatten and crush.
  5. Add salt, pepper, sugar, and stir. Bring mixture to boil.
  6. Finally, simmer over low heat and stir occasionally until the sauce gets thick (about 20 minutes). 



Meat and cheese steps:

  1. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add 1 tsp. of olive oil, onion, and ground beef. 
  3. Saute until meat browns and the onion is clear, roughly 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. 
  5. Combine ricotta, half of the mozzarella, half of the parmesan cheese, and parsley. 
  6. Add garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix.
  7. Add the meat to the cheese mixture and combine.


Manicotti steps :

  1. Oil a large baking sheet with 1 tsp. of olive oil.
  2. Cook the manicotti noodles in a large pot of boiling water until al dente, roughly 4-6 minutes. 
  3. Drain the pasta and transfer to the baking sheet. Wait to cool.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350º F.
  5. In a 9 x13 x 2 inch baking dish, spread the remaining 2 tsp. of olive oil.
  6. Spread half of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the baking dish.
  7. With the cheese and meat mixture, stuff the manicotti noodles.
  8. Arrange the stuffed pasta in the baking dish in a single, even layer. Spread the remaining marinara sauce over the pasta.
  9. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese over the pasta.
  10.  Bake the dish (uncovered) until fully heated and sauce bubbles of the sides, roughly 30-35 minutes.
  11.  Let the manicotti cool for 5 minutes and serve.