Stuffed pastas are a one-dish dinner that everyone loves. Here is a recipe that you can make ahead of time – you can even freeze it and take it out and bake it when you don't feel like cooking!
Manicotti is the Italian-American version of Cannelloni. Both are pasta tubes, but the difference between the two is fairly minimal: Manicotti tubes are ridged, larger and slightly thicker. Cannelloni tubes are smooth, a touch smaller and slightly thinner.
Usually when you make manicotti you use shells, but they have a tendency to break when you fill them. This takes all the hard work out of it.
BAKED MANICOTTI WITH MEAT SAUCE
You will need 16 no-boil noodles for this recipe. Some brands only have 12 so check the box for the number included.
2 jars of good marinara sauce
1 pound ground beef – optional (will be very good even meatless)
red pepper flakes – optional
3 cups ricotta cheese
2 ½ cups Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 ½ cups Provolone cheese, shredded
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup finely chopped basil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
16 no-boil lasagna noodles
Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Brown meat in a skillet under no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add marinara and red pepper flakes if using. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella, 1 cup Provolone, egg, basil, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Pour 1 inch of boiling water into a baking dish and slip the noodles into the water, one at a time. Let the noodles soak until pliable, about 5 minutes, separating noodles with the tip of a knife to prevent sticking. Remove noodles from water and place in a single layer on clean kitchen towels.
In a 13x9-inch baking dish, spread half of the marinara mixture over the bottom.
Spread about ¼ cup of the ricotta mixture evenly over the bottom of each noodle. Roll the noodles up around the filling and lay them seam side down in the baking dish. Spread the remaining marinara mixture over the top of the finished manicotti to cover it completely.
Cover tightly with foil and bake until bubbling around the edges, about 40 minutes.
Remove the foil and sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup mozzarella and ½ cup Provolone. Bake until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.
Let cool for 15 minutes – this is important! Serve!
You can use this ricotta/cheese mixture to stuff different types of pasta – shells, ravioli, or even as a filling in lasagna.
Make a salad and heat up some crusty bread and buon appetito!