Cheesy Beef Manicotti

This Cheesy Beef Manicotti is a tasty comfort food dinner…perfect for chilly nights!

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This Cheesy Beef Manicotti is a tasty comfort food dinner...perfect for chilly nights!We’ve got our morning routines down to a science around here.  Laura gets Robbie dressed while I get his milk and cereal ready.  Then I feed the little guy, but only after he goes down the steps on his own.  No help from Mom or Dad on that one!  (And if Mom or Dad helps, then be prepared for an all-out meltdown.  Right there in the middle of the landing.  It happened this morning, and it was a whole bunch of not fun rolled into a little package.)  If all goes well, Laura and Robbie are out the door at the same time every morning.  

As they were leaving last week, I told Laura that I was making Cheesy Beef Manicotti for dinner.  She didn’t seem all that excited, and she later admitted that it sounded like a grown-up version of Hamburger Helper.  Now I have nothing against Hamburger Helper.  In fact, that was a staple in our house as kids.  But this Cheesy Beef Manicotti is nothing like Hamburger Helper!

This Cheesy Beef Manicotti is a tasty comfort food dinner...perfect for chilly nights!Back in the early part of the summer, I had the opportunity to go out to Nebraska to learn a bit more about the beef industry.  The trip, hosted by the Nebraska Beef Council, included visits to multiple cattle farms across the eastern portion of the state.  Did you know that cattle outnumber people in Nebraska by more than 3:1?  Yup, Nebraska has over 6 million head of cattle and just under 2 million people.  Nebraska is the 2nd largest cattle producing state in the country behind only Texas, but Texas has way more people.

As a food blogger, I spend my days thinking about (and eating) food.  And for me it’s really important to understand where my food comes from.  Did you know that cattle production in the U.S. is actually the largest single segment of American agriculture?  According to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, there are ~725,000 beef farms and ranchs in the U.S.  We got to visit several of these on the trip to Nebraska, and the life of a farmer/rancher isn’t easy.  These folks are up early and awake late, and I was particularly struck by the amount of care these ranchers show to their herds.  Sure, beef is a commodity in that it’s bought and sold, but these folks never stop worrying about and caring for their herds.  The average size of a beef cow herd is just 40 head of cattle.

Another aspect of the beef industry that I found amazing was the focus on sustainability.  Many ranchers use spent grains from breweries as part of a nutritious diet for their cattle.  In fact, spent grains are the single biggest source of waste in the brewery industry, and the cost of feed is the biggest cost of raising cattle.  So this is a perfect relationship!  But most ranchers take the sustainability focus one step further, and utilize the manure to fertilize their crops (such as corn) that are then used to feed their herds.  It’s one big circle!

Oh, and one of the coolest sustainability things I saw on that trip?  One rancher was using leftover street sweeper brushes from the city of Omaha.  But he wasn’t using them to sweep his fields.  Nope, he stood those huge brushes up on end, and his cattle love to walk up next to them to scratch themselves.  (I tried to grab a photo, but it turned out a bit blurry.)  Talk about some happy cows!  They eat corn and leftover brewery grains (full of malted barley, wheat, corn, etc.) in the morning and then spend the afternoon scratching their backs on gigantic street sweepers.

This Cheesy Beef Manicotti is a tasty comfort food dinner...perfect for chilly nights!I learned way more about the US beef industry than I could ever hope to squeeze into a single post…unless you guys want to be reading for the next 2 hours!  But it’s safe to say that the US beef industry is healthy.  It’s a major economic driver for our country, and there are hundreds of thousands of farmers and ranchers who depend on beef.  If you guys have any questions about the beef or the trip, feel free to reach out!  If I know the answer, I’ll get right back to you.  If you stump me, then I’ll reach out to my friends at the Nebraska Beef Council as well as the New York Beef Council to find the answer!

This Cheesy Beef Manicotti is a tasty comfort food dinner...perfect for chilly nights!But back to this delicious Cheesy Beef Manicotti!  That’s why you’re here anyways, right?  We love pasta around our house, so I chose to go with manicotti as a base to this recipe.  There’s something about manicotti that just elevates a regular pasta dish into a fancy pasta dish!  That manicotti gets filled with spinach, mozzarella and ricotta, and then the marinara-ground beef sauce gets spooned on top.  This Cheesy Beef Manicotti makes for one amazing dinner!

This Cheesy Beef Manicotti is a tasty comfort food dinner...perfect for chilly nights!Looking for another fun manicotti idea?  Check out this Pesto Chicken Manicotti.  It’s a great way to use up any extra basil that you might have in your garden!  Enjoy!

This Cheesy Beef Manicotti is a tasty comfort food dinner...perfect for chilly nights!

Cheesy Beef Manicotti

This Cheesy Beef Manicotti is a tasty comfort food dinner…perfect for chilly nights!
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Draining Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 5 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 530kcal


  • 1 15-oz container ricotta cheese (~1¾ cups)
  • 14 manicotti pasta shells
  • 16 oz. lean ground beef
  • 1 large white onion diced
  • 1 tsp garlic minced
  • 1 24-oz jar marinara sauce
  • 2 10-oz package frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 large egg lightly beaten
  • 2 cup mozzarella cheese shredded and divided
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese grated
  • 1 tsp Italian seasonings
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • {Optional} fresh basil chopped


  • Drain the ricotta for several hours before making this recipe. (Tip: Just put a piece of cheesecloth in a colander. Put the ricotta on top and let it drain for a few hours.)
  • Cook manicotti according to package instructions. Once cooked, rinse with cold water and set aside on a sheet pan to drain.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Using a large skillet, add beef, onion and garlic. Place over medium-high heat and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until beef is fully cooked. Drain.
  • Spread 1 cup of marinara sauce and 1 cup of cooked beef mixture across bottom of 9”x13” baking dish.
  • Squeeze as much liquid out of the spinach as possible. Chop spinach finely.
  • Using a large mixing bowl, add egg, ricotta, 1 cup of mozzarella, Parmesan, Italian seasonings, salt, pepper and spinach; stir until well combined.
  • Using a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip (or a sandwich bag with one corner snipped off), fill the cooked manicotti with the ricotta-spinach mixture. Place filled manicotti in baking dish.
  • Pour remaining sauce and beef mixture on top of manicotti.
  • Cover and bake for 30 minutes at 350°F.
  • Uncover and sprinkle remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese on top. Bake (uncovered) for 5-10 more minutes, or until cheese has fully melted.
  • {Optional} Sprinkle with freshly chopped basil before serving.

This Cheesy Beef Manicotti is a tasty comfort food dinner...perfect for chilly nights!

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    1. Yeah, I didn’t know Nebraska was such a huge cattle state either before this trip, Dawn. But it is! I always thought of Nebraska and corn, but cattle is right up there, too. So this beef manicotti is downright delicious! It’s the perfect comfort food on a chilly night! Thanks so much, my friend. I hope you had a great weekend!

  1. Hamburger Helper? I’ve never heard of this and, thus, I think I’ve never had it either. Am I missing things? Anyway, you know my love for pasta, David. So there’s nothing much to say about this scrumptious dish. And even though I might add some unusual (weird) ingredients like lavender to my pasta once in a while, I acknowledge that there’s nothing better than a comfort combo of pasta, meat, and cheese. Just please don’t tell this to lavender!

    1. Eh, you are absolutely not missing anything with Hamburger Helper, Ben. It’s a boxed dinner that’s easy to prepare, so that makes it a classic for families with kids on weeknights. But honestly, it’s just not that delicious. This homemade version is WAY better! Also, I will keep your secret safe from lavender…as long as you promise to send me treats occasionally. Is that blackmail? Absolutely. But that’s how I can make sure I get some of that ice cream you keep making up there! 🙂

  2. Hi David! The ingredients in my lasagna are nearly identical to what you use here. This is the kind of dish that makes me happy! With the added benefit of making the house smell fantastic.

    1. Interesting! I guess this would make a pretty darned good lasagna…after all, that’s just a different kind of pasta. And, yes, dishes like this always put me in a good mood! This one is perfect for those nights when it just starts to get a little nip in the air outside. 🙂 Thanks so much, Dorothy!!

  3. I can’t get over the adorable image of cows scratching themselves on street sweeper brushes. Omg! The only thing cuter is imagining Robbie getting upset when you help him down the stairs 🙂 My mom made manicotti a lot when I was growing up but I haven’t had it in years. I think today is the day for me to change that! This looks awesome!

    1. Haha…oh, Kelsie. Robbie getting upset has become so much NOT cute lately. He’s definitely entering the terrible two’s. For example, we almost had a downright tantrum this morning because he didn’t want to put a clean shirt on. We got through the diaper change (a usual suspect for tantrums) like a champ…only to grind to a halt with the shirt change. Ugh!

      So manicotti is totally an underappreciated pasta. I know you’re not a meat-eater, but I’m thinking a good pesto manicotti could totally be right up your alley. If you need some extra pesto, I think I know where you can look. (ahem, *my freezer*, ahem). 🙂 Hope you had a great weekend, my friend!

  4. First off – Robbie is scaling the stairs by himself???? Whaaaat??? Gosh, at this rate, it won’t be long before you start writing about his driving!!!!! 🙂
    Your trip visiting all those farms sounds wonderful, David! I had no idea there were more cattle than people in Nebraska and wow – what a circle with the manure and feed and all – prior to your post I had no idea the industry focussed so much on sustainability.
    Byw – Manicotti is little Shashi’s favorite too and it’s been ages since we enjoyed some. Your’s looks fantastic – way, way better than the Hamburger Helper of my college years (which back then was a spluge and upgrade from Ramen noodles!)
    Hope you guys have a wonderful weekend – please give Robbie a hug from us and tell him to please stop growing up so fast! 🙂

    1. Oh man, Robbie is on the move these days, Shashi! But he’s also hit the stage where he wants to do everything by himself. And, boy oh boy, is that stage a whole lot of not fun. This morning, we had a battle over putting on his shirt. The silliest things that used to be no problem at all just jump up now and surprise you. Ugh, terrible twos!

      So the cattle industry is quite an impressive operation. I learned so many interesting tidbits on that trip…not to mention seeing a ton of cattle chillin’ out in the fields. For instance, I’ve never thought about the economic importance of cattle…but it’s one of the biggest industries in America. In the meantime, though, I will absolutely give Robbie a hug for you when he comes home from daycare later today. He’s an adorable little guy…even if he is sometimes difficult! 🙂 Thanks, Shashi!

    1. I’m right there with ya, Kathy! I love knowing more about where my food comes from, so that trip to Nebraska was awesome in so many ways. I really appreciated the chance to just chat with the farmers and ranchers themselves. There’s a lot of stuff out there about the beef industry, and a lot of it is just plain wrong. We had a great conversation with a couple of ranchers about the real day-to-day life on a cattle farm. It’s hard work, and I have a newfound respect for these folks!

      Anyhoo, this manicotti is indeed delicious…and it’s perfect for those nights when there’s just a little nip starting to show up in the air! 🙂 Thanks so much, my friend!

  5. I can honestly say I’ve never had or made Manicotti. Robbie is a big boy has wants to go do the stairs by hisself. That is so cute, until its not lol. Morning routines are so important they set the tone for the day. I remember Hamburger Helper, my Mom hated it but the rest of the family loved it. I would love to visit farms in Nebraska. I had no idea it was 3:1 more cattle than people.

    1. Oh, you should totally make manicotti sometime, Mary! It’s just pasta, after all. Pasta filled with whatever creation you can think of. 🙂 I know you’re not a big meat eater, so you could totally fill manicotti with a pesto + ricotta combo that would taste amazing! 🙂

      Yes! Robbie is so cute doing little boy things…until its not. I can tell you get it for sure! He’s hit the terrible twos (even though his birthday is still 2 months away), so our morning routine is so much “interesting” now. Hah! Thanks so much, my friend! I hope you had a great weekend!

  6. Thanks for the recipe! I need something new to do with pasta. And am happy it’s nothing like the dreaded “hamburger Helper”. I never knew beef cattle ate spent grains from breweries, that is so interesting! Good luck with your 2-year-old – you know, “terrible 2’s” are only an appetizer for the “3’s”. I won’t tell you what precedes the “3s”, but 4 is Fantastic!

  7. If you east me down in front of a plate full of Hamburger Helper, I’m sure I’d eat the whole thing. But your manicotti is nothing like that. It’s honest to goodness comfort food!

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