I love manicotti, but I don’t love filling those little tubes. It just seems too fiddly for dinner time when I want to eat! This is where short lasagna noodles come to the rescue. Now all I need to do is stir together the filling, roll it up into tubes, and pop it into the oven. Manicotti just got easier.
With Easter coming up I’ve been thinking all sorts of food I like to eat in the spring and for holidays, and I have been remiss if I didn’t put an Italian pasta recipe into the mix. Every holiday growing up featured meatballs or raviolis or braciole or some other yummy Italian-American foods. Often more than one! So, manicotti with Easter dinner? Seems just right to me. 🙂
Though you don’t have to wait for Easter to make these. Cheesy, gooey, saucy manicotti would be at home on your dinner table any night of the week. They make a really satisfying vegetarian meal along with a salad, and maybe a nice glass of Nero d’Avola or Barbera if you like wine. Full disclosure: I like wine. Nero d’Avola is a great, and fairly inexpensive Italian wine which I love, while Barbera is also really tasty but will cost you a bit more. Either would get you out of the Chianti zone. Not that I don’t enjoy a Chianti, but Italy makes more wines than that.
A lot of recipes for easy, roll up manicotti call for no-boil lasagna noodles, and, if you like using them, go for it. However, I find them too delicate and fussy for me when I’m trying to roll them up. Layer them uncooked in a lasagna? Sure. (Though I prefer regular noodles and a little extra baking time for lasagna as well.) More full disclosure: I never tried to soften and roll no-boil noodles before a few weeks ago, but I thought I’d fully test the recipe and see if they were better. They weren’t. We had dinner that night, but there was a lot of swearing in the making of it. 🙂
And, anyway, if you need to roll up the noodles, you are going to have to heat up water and soften them away! Why not just par-cook some noodles? So, that’s what I do. I buy De Cecco brand lasagna noodles, which are short – about 8 inches – and wide. The perfect size for manicotti, and they are nice and sturdy so you don’t have to be super careful when working with them. A few minutes in boiling water and a toss with olive oil to keep them from sticking together and you are ready to get rolling.
Love Italian-American comfort food as much as I do? Then you’ll love this collection of my Italian comfort food recipes! I have several of my favorites in the collection so far and I’ll be adding more. There are a lot more Italian comfort food recipes I want to share with y’all. 🙂
– Happy Eating, Annemarie
- 6 cups marinara sauce
- 12 oz ricotta cheese, part skim or whole milk
- ¾ cup spinach (6 oz), thawed and squeezed dry
- ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 15 short lasagna noodles (De Cecco brand)
- olive oil
- Preheat oven 375F.
- Begin heating marinara sauce so that it's simmering when you are ready to assemble the manicotti. Then fill a large pot with salted water for the lasagna noodles and put it on high heat.
- Puree ricotta cheese and spinach in a food processor until smooth, about 20 seconds. Put ricotta mixture into a large bowl. Add parmesan cheese, 1½ cups of the mozzarella, eggs and salt. Mix well and set aside.
- Once the water is boiling for the pasta, add the noodles and cook them for 5 minutes. Drain and toss with olive oil so they don't stick together.
- Set out a 9x13 casserole dish and cover the bottom with marinara sauce, about 1 cup. Lay out one of the noodles and put about ¼ cup of the filling near the end of the noodle closest to you. Roll up the noodle from the end near you to the other end. Put the rolled, filled noodle into the casserole dish. Pack the manicotti into the dish, in three rows, five per row. Cover the manicotti thoroughly with marinara sauce, 2-3 cups. Then sprinkle the remaining mozzarella over the top.
- Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake for 30 mins. Remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes more. If desired, top with chopped basil or parsley. Serve with more parmesan at the table.
You can use no-boil noodles by softening them briefly in hot water, and then draining and tossing them with oil as I direct for the standard noodles. However, I personally find no-boil noodles to be difficult to work with and still require me to heat water and dirty a pot. De Cecco noodlesare short and wide and very easy to work with, so I recommend those for this recipe.