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Simple Manicotti plus an Amazing Shortcut


Simple Manicotti

I’m going to teach you a shortcut that will *really* make your Manicotti dinner easy! But first, a little about noodles:

I have always loved noodles of any kind. I was the kid who was thrilled with just getting the noodles in the can of Campbell’s soup, and hoping my sister got all of those  icky chewy square chicken pieces. I used to love when Mom would make plain noodles and then put butter on them.  And I  loved cheese-filled noodles, especially the cheese filling that was in raviolis that I’d order when we went out for Italian food at Petrini’s (which has been in Santa Barbara since 1958!)… or Marianne’s Italian Villa. Of course, I had no idea what that cheese was, only that it was “special”.  AND… I knew that this same special cheese was in
manicotti, which Mom didn’t make often enough, in my opinion. Looking back, I remember it only showing up on nights we’d have company… hmmm… maybe it *was* special. Or maybe it’s because it was a pain in the neck to stuff all of those droopy noodles. Yep, that was probably it.
Well, problem solved. This recipe makes it easier to stuff them, and the amazing shortcut will go even further than that. BUT…. you have to wait. The shortcut it at the bottom.

Simple Manicotti  

Meat Sauce:

2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 lb. ground Angus Beef (organic/grass fed)
2 Tablespoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 jars of your favorite Marinara Sauce (yes, jars. Get one without soybean oil though)
(we are making it simple, remember?)

Cheese Filling:

3 cups Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated
2 cups Mozzarella Cheese, freshly grated
1 – 15oz. tub Ricotta Cheese
1 egg, whisked
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon minced Italian Parsley

1 box Manicotti Noodles

Preheat oven to 375°.

Heat oil in a large wide, deep skillet over medium heat. Add beef; break up larger pieces. Season with pepper and continue to stir. Add oregano and pepper. Stir, and let sit for a few minutes. Keep stirring occasionally until meat is completely browned through, and it is broken into small pieces. Add jarred sauce. Add about 2 Tablespoons of water to each jar; add lid and shake well to release remaining sauce. Pour into skillet. (This also helps to thin the sauce too).

Meanwhile, combine all ingredients of cheese filling in a large bowl. Open up a gallon sized freezer bag, and add cheese filling.  Close the zipper on the top of the bag, and cut a very small part of one corner of the bag (see photo); set aside.

Boil water in large deep pot. Add noodles. Cook for 4 minutes, and remove noodles with a large slotted spoon onto a plate.

To assemble:

Spoon about 1 cup of sauce into the bottom of a 9×13 glass pan; spread around so it covers the bottom.
With a noodle in one hand, and the zippered bag in the other, gently pipe cheese sauce into the first half of the manicotti shell. Turn the noodle around, and pipe cheese filling into the other open side. Set noodle in pan, and repeat until all space is taken in the pan.

Top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle remaining cheeses over the sauce.
Bake in oven for approximately 40 minutes, or until cheese becomes golden and bubbly. Let sit at least 10 minutes before serving.

Promise me that  you'll shred a block of real parmesan cheese instead of reaching for that icky green canister. The taste is far superior and the quality of the product is what will make your dinner taste great!

Promise me that you’ll shred a block of real parmesan cheese instead of reaching for that icky green canister. The taste is far superior and the quality of the product is what will make your dinner taste great!

Here's a quick way to stuff the manicotti shells

Here’s a quick way to stuff the manicotti shells


Only boil 4 minutes before you stuff them

Only boil 4 minutes before you stuff them

... till they look like these...

… till they look like these…

Add sauce to pan (no oil needed)

Add sauce to pan (no oil needed)

Start stuffing the shells

Start stuffing the shells

Get as man as you can into the pan

Get as many as you can into the pan

Pour remaining sauce over noodles, and top with remaining cheeses

Pour remaining sauce over noodles, and top with remaining cheeses

Let pan stand 10 minutes before serving.

Let pan stand 10 minutes before serving.

I served mine with lemon butter asparagus and broiled French bread with sliced garlic and butter.

I made this meal, because Kenny had asked for it, for his Father’s Day dinner. I served this with lemon butter asparagus and toasted garlicky bread. He gave it a thumbs up =0)

See how easy this was? Think you’ll be making it soon?

Now for the AMAZINGLY great SHORTCUT…

Years ago I cooked from a recipe book that was full of freezer meal ideas. One of the best things I learned was that manicotti can be frozen, if done properly.
Here’s what you do: Follow my (or your own) recipe, but when you fill the shells, make sure they are still completely uncooked. Once they’re filled, put them back in the little plastic trays that held them in the box originally. Wrap each tray first in plastic wrap, and then in a freezer bag. Freeze up to a couple of months.
When you want a manicotti dinner, just pull them out of the freezer, and treat them just like my recipe above: Spoon sauce in the baking dish, add the manicottis, top with sauce and cheese, and then bake for approximately 30-45 minutes until they’re cooked through and cheese is golden.

I’d love to hear what you think! Please leave me a comment!

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  1. I love Manicotti, it’s been a long time since I’ve had them. Your recipe is wonderful and so is the tip on freezing.

  2. Marilyn

    Looks like another good one! I take yet another shortcut. I don’t even par-boil the shells, because I’ve had trouble with them tearing. (Klutz.) So, I stuff them right from the package, then add at least one more cup of water to the sauce (more than one cup if the “jarred” sauce is especially thick) and add 20 min to baking time. I wonder if uncooked would still work with the freezer. I like that idea, but I’m guessing they’d probably need to be soft in order to freeze properly.

I'd love to hear what you think!

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