Manicotti


This homemade Manicotti recipe is 5-star Italian comfort food. It’s creamy, cheesy, meaty, saucy, and deeply satisfying. I’ve stuffed my baked Manicotti with beef, Italian sausage, ricotta and mozzarella but I’ve also included recipe variations for Cheese Manicotti, Spinach Manicotti, Chicken Manicotti etc. I’ve included everything you need to know about how to make Manicotti as well as how to make ahead and how to freeze. Let’s manicotti!


 
 Prep Time    45 minutes
 Cook Time    70 minutes (including marinara)



INGREDIENTS


Manicotti

1 8 oz. pkg Manicotti Shells (14 shells)


Meat Mixture
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound mild Italian sausage casings removed
1/2 medium yellow onion chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
1/4 tsp EACH salt, pepper


Marinara
1 recipe Homemade Marinara Sauce or 3 3/4 cups store bought (warmed)


Cheese Filling
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
3/4 cup sour cream full fat is best
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 1/2 tablespoon dried
2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or 1/2 tablespoon dried
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups freshly grated mozzarella
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp EACH salt, pepper


Topping
1 1/2 cups freshly grated mozzarella
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan



INSTRUCTIONS



Place manicotti shells into the bottom of a long pan. Pour hot tap water over the noodles until they are submerged. Let them soak for 30 minutes (you can chop your veggies, make marinara and filling during this time).

 

In a Dutch oven or large pot, brown ground beef, sausage and 1/2 onion, over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper then add garlic and cook 30 more seconds. Drain all but 1 tablespoon grease. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to cool.


Prepare Marinara according to recipe directions using grease from pan instead of olive oil in recipe.


While sauce is simmering, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Add eggs to a large bowl and whisk. Add all remaining Cheese Filling ingredients including cooled meat. Stir until evenly combined.


Lightly spray a 9x13 baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Spread 1 cup of Marinara sauce on the bottom of the prepared pan (layer will be thin).


Pat manicotti shells dry with paper towels and generously fill each shell with the cheese-meat mixture. To do this, I add the mixture to a freezer size bag, snip the corner and pipe the filling into each end. The ends should be overflowing.


Arrange the stuffed manicotti in a single layer in the baking pan (squeeze them in). If you have any leftover filling, spread it evenly over the stuffed shells. Evenly top with remaining marinara sauce followed by 1 1/2 cups mozzarella and 1/2 cup Parmesan.


Tightly cover manicotti with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake and an additional 10 minutes or until heated through and Parmesan is golden.


Let the manicotti stand 10 minutes before serving.



STUFFED MANICOTTI VARIATIONS


The ground beef and Italian sausage in this recipe equal about 3 cups, so you can replace them with anything that equals the same volume. Here are a few ideas:

Chicken Manicotti: substitute the ground beef and sausage with 3 cups shredded cooked chicken or 3 cups ground chicken.  You can use marinara sauce or replace it with béchamel/Alfredo sauce.


Beef Manicotti: replace the Italian sausage with lean ground beef.


Ground Turkey Manicotti: replace the ground beef and sausage with ground turkey. 


Spinach Manicotti: replace the ground beef or sausage with one 10 oz. package frozen, thawed spinach that has been well drained.  Use two 10 oz. packages if omitting all of the meat.  You can also use fresh spinach, see below.


Spinach and Mushroom Manicotti: replace ground beef and sausage with 12 oz. chopped baby bella mushrooms and 4 cups fresh baby spinach.  Melt 2 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot.  Add onions and cook 2 minutes.  Add mushrooms and sauté 4-6 minutes or until golden.  Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add spinach and cook on low for 1-2 minutes or until wilted.


Vegetable Manicotti: use any variety of vegetables from spinach, mushrooms, bell peppers, zucchini, carrots, etc.  Chop vegetables and sauté them until crisp-tender.


Seafood Manicotti: replace meats with one-pound lump crab meat or a combination of crab meat and cooked, chopped shrimp.  Replace Marinara Sauce with Bechamel/Alfredo Sauce.


Cheese Manicotti: You keep your manicotti super simple and just stuff with the cheese filling.  You will want to increase the ingredients to make up for the 3 cups lost volume of meat.  


Cottage Cheese Manicotti: keep the sour cream but replace the ricotta with cottage cheese.  I love the added texture of cottage cheese if I am skipping the meat and using spinach instead.

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