Easy to make baked pasta dish that is cheesy and hearty!
Another week means another set of dinner recipes to sort out for our busy family … and I know we are not alone in this. I honestly dread the start of a new week and trying to figure out what I am going to feed my picky (almost) two year old. Thankfully when it comes to pasta she will eat it all up regardless of how it’s made and served.
That’s where this easy manicotti recipe comes in. It can be made ahead of time and customized to your family’s tastes which is a double win, and it is a great weeknight dinner that is on the table in 40 minutes.
Ingredients for Cheese Manicotti
There are a few stand out ingredients for this dish.
Shredded mozzarella cheese – when we buy cheese in blocks I like to take a portion of it and shred it ahead of time so when I make dishes like this manicotti I am already one step ahead. You can keep it in a Ziploc baggie or in an airtight container to keep it fresh.
Spinach – I prefer to use fresh baby spinach for this recipe but you can definitely substitute with regular spinach, just be sure to give it a finer chop so you don’t have large spinach chunks in the manicotti. Also, you can use frozen chopped spinach in this recipe but you will need to do some prep work.
First, if using the frozen spinach, make sure it has thawed. Then you will want to press out as much of the moisture as possible using either a clean tea towel or paper towels. Then you can use it in this recipe as you would fresh spinach.
Manicotti Shells – do not use the no boil noodles, you want the ones you have to boil first. Trust me on this, the texture is different and will change the taste of the dish. Boil the shells according to the package and then set them to the side for filling.
Pasta Sauce – I love to use strained tomatoes and make a “quick” sauce by adding in some of my favorite spices. In a dish like this where the sauce and noodles will cook together in the oven it is not necessary to cook the sauce ahead of time as the flavors will blend during baking. You can also use your favorite store bought sauce to make this even easier.
How to Fill Manicotti Shells
Filling the manicotti noodles after they are boiled is easy when you have prepared everything you need.
First off, make sure the shells have cooled enough that you can handle them. Then ensure you have either a piping bag or sandwich bag to put your prepared filling into. Cut the corner of the bag about 1″ up, large enough for the filling to come out easily.
Holding the cooled shell in one hand, press the bag of filling into one end and fill halfway. Turn the shell around and fill the other half.
Add the filled manicotti to your baking dish, which will already have sauce ladled over the bottom. Continue filling until all of your shells are ready.
Side Dishes to Serve with Stuffed Manicotti
- 1 package manicotti shells - cooked according to package
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 2.5 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 cups chopped baby spinach (see notes above in Ingredients section)
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
- 1 jar pasta sauce (750ml)
- Preheat oven to 375F and bring a large pot of water to boil.
- Begin by preparing filling - in a medium bowl mix together ricotta, 1/2 cup of the shredded mozzarella, 1/4 cup of Parmesan, spinach, egg and seasoning, Stir to combine and mix well to ensure spinach and cheese is throughout.
- Fill a piping bag with the cheese mixture and cut the corner about 1" up.
- Salt boiling water and add manicotti shells - cook them according to package. Strain and set aside to cool 2 minutes.
- Prepare 9"x13" baking dish by spreading enough sauce over the bottom to lightly cover, begin filling shells.
- Take a shell in your hand and press the piping bag halfway inside. Gently squeeze and pull the bag at the same time to fill the shell. Turn shell around and fill other side.
- Assemble filled shells in your sauce lined baking dish. IF you need to add a second layer ensure that you have sauce between the filled shells.
- Top the shells with remaining sauce and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.
- Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and cook additional 10 minutes until cheese is fully melted.
Serving Size:2 shells
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 313Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 91mgSodium: 773mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 24g
*Please note that nutritional values are not always 100% accurate and are to be used as a guide.
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