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What is Manicotti?

Paulla Estes
Updated May 16, 2024
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Manicotti is a large, tubular shaped pasta with a cooked diameter of about one inch (2.54 cm) and a length of about four inches (10.16 cm). Unlike other styles of pasta, manicotti is usually stuffed with various types of cheeses, meats, vegetables or seafood, and then baked in a cheese or tomato based sauce. Manicotti, like other pasta, is simply an Italian dough made with semolina flour, water, and sometimes eggs. The fresh dough is kneaded, worked, and then shaped into a wide variety of styles, including manicotti, spaghetti, macaroni, lasagna and ziti, to name only a few.

Although manicotti and other pastas are often thought to have originated in Italy, there are varying opinions about the first place pasta was created and eaten. The Chinese are known to have eaten noodles for centuries, and there is evidence of boiled noodles being prepared in fifth century Jerusalem. Yet, as Italy is the world's primary producer of durum wheat, the favorite wheat of traditional pasta makers, pasta has become almost synonymous with Italian cuisine.

Dried pasta, such as manicotti and many of the other styles, became a staple on board ships and among travelers and explorers in the sixteenth century. Pasta was easy to store, readily accessible, tasty and filling. Explorers influenced the preparation of pasta when they brought back tomatoes to Italy; then the Italian food we know and love today was born.

Manicotti is a favorite pasta dish of cooks and diners alike, not only for its traditional pasta flavor, but also because of its ease of preparation and the wide variety of preparation possibilities. Manicotti can be stuffed solely with ricotta cheese and a bit of salt and parsley, and then covered with plain tomato sauce for a mild, simple meal. For more ambitious cooks, the manicotti can be stuffed with a variety of cheeses, including ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, and others.

Most cooks don't stop at just cheese. Many stuff manicotti with sausages, peppers, tomatoes, shredded beef, crabmeat or a variety of vegetables. Cream sauces such as Alfredo sauce can be used to cover the stuffed manicotti for a completely different flavor. Whichever recipe is used, manicotti is easy and delicious, and sure to become a family favorite.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Paulla Estes
By Paulla Estes
Based in Maine, Paulla Estes is a freelance writer and website editor with a B.A. in English Literature from George Mason University. With over 15 years of experience in the field, Paulla appreciates the flexibility and consistency that comes with contributing to DelightedCooking. She relishes the opportunity to continuously learn new things while crafting informative and engaging articles for readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon220493 — On Oct 07, 2011

And so the battle rages. But the really simple answer is that cannelloni is pasta-based and manicotti is crepe-based. The fillings and sauces are usually identical, the basic building blocks being the only real difference.

And the reason it's hard to find "manicotti" in Italy is because since it is a filled crepe, it's usually seen on menus as a "crespelle."

Like spaghetti and meatballs, stromboli, and a host of other things "improved" (?) by American cooks, manicotti is an Italian-American variation on a traditional Italian preparation.

By anon132261 — On Dec 06, 2010

OK, I am an American living in Italy and have to choose a menu for a ceremony meal. After reading all the comments and frustrations of us, Americans not understanding the Italian culture, I still don't know what "manicotti" is. Can somebody describe at least the ingredients of this meal if not the recipe? Thanks in advance. --Antonia

By anon131829 — On Dec 04, 2010

I am Italian and it isn't a dried pasta! I make crepes. I am also a chef and it isn't a cannelloni, because it isn't pasta. This is why people look at Americans as ignorant. Just because you think it doesn't make it correct. Check your facts.

By anon102542 — On Aug 08, 2010

My mom is from Spain and she makes manicotti. her version is with crepes first then the veal with the spinach for the filling, the red sauce apart, then she begins doing the manicotti, with two days of preparation until the dinner.

By anon48435 — On Oct 12, 2009

Go back then. We take everyhting and make it better.

By anon35346 — On Jul 04, 2009

I am a real Italian: I was born, raised and lived in Italy, until a year ago, when I had to move to the U.S.A.

Manicotti do not exist in Italy. They are not Italian food, but American. And it is so hard to find real Italian food in the USA. We do not eat spaghetti with meatballs either!! Arghhh!!! There is so little knowledge about what Italy really is.. It's a pity.

By toni97 — On May 19, 2009

I know in most restaurants and store bought manicotti is a kneaded pasta tube, however the crepe style is also manicotti. It depends on where in Italy you are from. My Great Grandmother came from Chiminea, Sicily and the crepe style is the manicotti shell.

By anon17942 — On Sep 11, 2008

If you use crepes you should not call it manicotti since they are pre-made tubes, a hand rolled pasta that is filled is called cannelloni, just fyi.

By mommamarg — On Aug 09, 2008

I never thought of using crepes - what a great idea for something different. I use lasagna strips when I don't feel like wrestling with manicotti tubes. Just lay the mixture down the middle of the strip, roll, and continue as you normally would.

By anon13404 — On May 26, 2008

I also use crepes as manicotti. Lighter and easier to prepare. I was happy to see that someone besides myself uses crepes for manicotti. Thank you!


By somerset — On Feb 02, 2008

Here is a different way of preparing manicotti. I make crepes but have never thought of using them as manicotti, until i came across this recipe. Basically you make crepes first, then fill them with prepared cheese filling, roll them up and tuck the ends so the filling does not escape. Put them in a baking dish with tomato sauce and bake.

Paulla Estes
Paulla Estes
Based in Maine, Paulla Estes is a freelance writer and website editor with a B.A. in English Literature from George...
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