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Lemony Sausage-Kale Manicotti

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This flavorful main dish was inspired by some of my favorite things: Italian sausage, lemons, cream sauce, and lots and LOTS of cheese! Sophisticated and surprisingly simple, it's a summery twist on an Italian favorite that's perfect for anything from fancy dinner parties with friends to sweatpants, party of one. After all, when food's this good, who wants to share?

Lemony Sausage-Kale Manicotti

  • Servings: 2 manicotti
  • Yield: 6 servings
  • Prep Time: 30 min
  • Cooking Time: 1 hr


  • ½ lb. ground sweet Italian pork sausage
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups finely chopped baby kale
  • 15 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 2 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • 12 manicotti noodles, cooked according to package directions
  • 4 tbsp. salted butter
  • 1 ½ tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • ⅓ cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Liberally grease a 9x13 pan.
  2. Place sausage in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until meat is browned and cooked through. Drain fat and return pan to heat.
  3. Place garlic and kale in pan with meat and cook, stirring frequently, until kale is tender, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to large mixing bowl. Let cool 10-15 minutes.
  4. Add ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella, egg, salt, and pepper to bowl with meat mixture. Stir to combine.
  5. Scoop ricotta mixture into large piping bag. Snip the corner of the bag and carefully fill each manicotti noodle with a generous amount of ricotta. Place filled manicotti into prepared pan; repeat until all manicotti have been filled. Cover pan and set aside.
  6. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Sprinkle flour over butter and whisk continuously for 2-3 minutes, until golden. Whisking constantly, pour half-and-half, chicken broth, and lemon juice into pan with roux. Turn heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened. Sprinkle ½ cup parmesan cheese into pan and whisk until smooth, then stir in zest. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Pour sauce evenly over filled manicotti. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.
  8. Cover pan with aluminum foil and place in preheated oven. Bake 35-40 minutes, until heated through. Remove foil and place under broiler 2-3 minutes until cheese is golden. Remove from heat and let sit 10-15 minutes before serving.

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