Hey, if you love your lasagna or stuffed shells then you’ll love Manicotti, and it’s so simple with this scratch Italian sausage tomato sauce. And you can’t forget the creamy ricotta stuffed inside this cheesy baked pasta masterpiece!

Looking for a wholesome pasta dinner to make this week? Manicotti Baked with Scratch Sausage Tomato Sauce is the perfect weeknight dinner. Serve this pasta bake with some crunchy garlic bread and Caesar salad for a complete meal.

baked manicotti with sauce and cheese

While oh-so-delicious, Manicotti does take some time to come together. Nonetheless, the steps are simple and well worth the effort. There are a few elements to prepare: the Italian sausage pasta sauce, the ricotta filling, and then assembling the final pasta bake.

A few notes about this Manicotti recipe

Some common questions or concerns when making Manicotti:

What is the difference between Manicotti and Cannelloni?

There really isn’t much difference between the two. Cannelloni prefaces the Italian-American Manicotti recipe. The noodles are both cylindrical, but Manicotti noodles have ridges where cannelloni does not. Also, they are both usually filled with cheese such as ricotta and/or a mixture with meat. Both are also usually covered in a tomato sauce.

Can I use store-bought sauce?

That is certainly an option. Whatever is more fitting for you.
As a side-note, I will usually make a large batch of pasta sauce and freeze them in smaller batches so I have it on hand.

Do you have to cook the noodles first? Can I use pre-cooked noodles?

It isn’t necessary to boil the noodles beforehand, but doing so does make it easy to fill. They also cook more quickly and require less sauce.
Pre-cooked noodles can be used.

How do you fill the manicotti shells?

I like to use a gallon size plastic zip bag and fill with the ricotta mixture. Then, cut off the tip at the bottom and use like a piping bag to squeeze the cheese into the noodles.

Can I make it in advance?

I love this question because it is a big YES!

To make ahead of time, use uncooked shells. Fill each one with the ricotta mixture. Cover the bottom of the baking dish with sauce and place each filled shell on top. Then pour more sauce on top, covering the shells completely. Tightly seal with plastic wrap and then foil.

To store, refrigerate this baking dish of Manicotti up to 3 days, or freeze up to 3 months! Bake as instructed below. For frozen, add an additional 3-5 minutes.

Alternatively, you can also prepare the manicotti shells without the sauce. Fill each shell and place it on a baking sheet. Cover with plastic and allow it to freeze completely. Once frozen, transfer the stuffed shells to a ziplock bag. When ready to cook, spread sauce on the bottom of a baking dish, place frozen manicotti, then top with additional sauce and cheese. Bake.

sausage tomato pasta sauce

If you’re like me, you like to make tomato sauce in big batches. While store-bought sauce is convenient, there’s less control over what is being included. Especially when it comes to sodium!

Dinner for any night of the week!

So, I make a big batch to separate and freeze into smaller batches. I may not use meat every time, as I also like to use this sauce as a marinara for meatballs subs and other recipes. With that being said, you can easily add in meat to your premade pasta sauce when you’re ready to use it.

manicotti with scratch sausage tomato sauce pin

Sausage Tomato Pasta Sauce Ingredients

  • canned crushed tomatoes
  • tomato paste
  • tomato sauce
  • beef broth
  • Italian sausage links split and casing removed
  • seasonings: garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, thyme, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, bay leaves
  • onion and green pepper
  • soy sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce

To make the Italian sausage tomato sauce:

  1. Heat a pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Split open Italian sausage links and crumble into the pan. Cook thoroughly, chopping the sausage into pieces with a spatula. Once browned, pushed the meat to the side of the pan.
  2. Add in diced onion and green peppers. Sweat the veggies a few minutes and then add in the minced garlic. Continue to saute until the garlic is fragrant.
  3. Combine the meat and veggies and again, push to the side of the pan.
  4. Add in the tomato paste and allow this to cook a few minutes until it becomes a dark, deep reddish-brown. Now combine the tomato paste with the sausage and veggies.
  5. Add in crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce, beef broth, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and seasonings. Reduce heat to medium-low or to simmering and cover. Allow pasta sauce to simmer for at least 30 minutes. For preference, I simmer my sauce for 2-3 hours at least. It has so much more flavor and depth.

Filling Ingredients

  • ricotta
  • egg
  • Parmesan
  • mozzarella
  • fresh parsley
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk egg and stir in the ricotta, cheeses, and fresh parsley until well combined. Place the filling mixture in a large plastic zip bag or pastry bag and cut the tip.

Additional Ingredients

  • extra cheese for topping
manicotti with sausage tomato sauce

Prepare to bake

Now that you have everything ready to go, it’s time to assemble and bake your homemade Manicotti recipe.

Spoon the sausage tomato sauce to cover the bottom of a baking dish. Then, fill each shell with the ricotta mixture. Place the stuffed shell on top of the sauce and cover with the remaining sauce, or until covered. Top with shredded cheese and additional Parmesan.

Cover the baking dish with foil and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 40 minutes. Uncover and allow to bake an additional 10-15 minutes or until cheese is brown and sauce is bubbly.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.

I hope you enjoy this Manicotti Smothered with Scratch Sausage Tomato Sauce! Let me know in the comments if you tried this recipe. Be sure to tag #ladleandgrain on facebookinstagram, and twitter!

Manicotti Smothered with Scratch Sausage Tomato Sauce

Recipe by DiannaCourse: Recipes, Dinner, LunchCuisine: Italian, AmericanDifficulty: Medium


Prep time


Cooking Time


Baking time



This Manicotti is the perfect weekend dinner smothered with scratch Italian sausage tomato sauce and stuffed with creamy ricotta for a cheesy baked pasta masterpiece!


  • Scratch Sausage Tomato Sauce
  • 3 italian sausages, split open and casing removed

  • 1 large onion

  • 1 green pepper

  • 2 tbsp minced garlic

  • 2 tbsp tomato paste

  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

  • 1 can tomato sauce or puree

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning

  • 1 tsp sweet basil

  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar

  • salt and pepper

  • Manicotti
  • 1 box manicotti

  • oz ricotta

  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan

  • 1 tsp parsley

  • 1 large egg

  • salt and pepper

  • 1 cup shredded cheese

  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan


  • Sauce
  • Heat large saucepan over medium-high heat with 2 tbsp olive oil. Remove casing from sausage or use ground sausage, and crumble into pan. Cook until brown, crispy edges.
  • Add in diced onions and tomatoes. Saute until softened, add garlic. Then, add in tomato paste. Cook until paste begins to darken.
  • Add in crushed tomatoes, sauce, broth, and seasonings. Stir well, reduce to a simmer. Simmer sauce for at least 45 minutes, but best for 2-3 hours.
  • Manicotti
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Cook noodles according to package. Drain and set aside.
  • In a bowl, mix together filling ingredients.
  • Fill noodles. In a medium baking dish, spoon a layer of sauce and place filled noodles on top. Spoon more sauce over and top with shredded cheese. Sprinkle with Parmesan and Italian seasoning.
    Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until cheese is browning.

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