So last night I made baked manicotti and it’s one of those things that when you make it you wonder why you don’t just make it practically every night. My husband loves it, I love it and sometimes the baby will even eat it (you know that’s a victory if you’ve ever had a toddler.) My husband isn’t huge on Italian bakes (where I, on the other hand, could eat them all day every day) and yet he loves this one. Like, really loves it.
Although I have never made any other kind of manicotti, this one seems pretty darn simple. And it’s yummy.
The original recipe says it serves two and I put that it serves two but it feeds me, my husband AND our toddler. And I’m usually the type of person who sees “Serves 6” and assumes it really serves three. This actually will serve 2. In fact, it was adapted from a recipe found in Cooking for Two. And let me tell you, every single recipe I have made from this book has been a hit. Okay, so I may have only made a handful from it, but they’ve still all been hits.
Now, let me make a note about the photography. Our place is a rental and the kitchen is a galley style with fluorescent lighting and no windows. It makes for a photographer’s nightmare but I just don’t know any way around it. I dream of the day I can post natural-light-filled recipe posts, but for now I thank you for bearing with me.
Here we go:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Prepare the sauce by mixing one 14.5 ounce can of tomatoes, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper flakes in a food processor until the tomatoes are smooth. (Roughly 10 seconds)
You don’t have to worry about mincing the garlic or cutting the basil super fine because it will all get perfectly chopped during this step. You will see small basil chunks in the processor but the tomatoes should be smooth.
Prepare the filling by mixing together 8 oz ricotta, 3/4 cup mozzarella, and ½ cup of Parmesan, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
Mmmmm, the cheesy part. I’m always tempted to take a taste of my mixing spoon during this part, as if it were cookie dough. I haven’t yet, but it tempts me every single time.
Fill a large bowl with boiling water and slip in 6 no-boil lasagna noodles; crisscross them so they don’t stick together. After about 5 minutes remove each noodle, one-by-one, and place them on a towel.
The first time I made it I put the noodles in one on top of the other. Disaster. I ended up with a giant noodle that I had to cut apart. The crisscross really does the trick. I take the noodles out with a butter knife (to separate the noodles) and scoop them out one-by-one with a spatula.
Spread ½ cup of the sauce in a 9”x5” loaf pan.
Spoon about ¼ cup of the cheese filling onto the bottom part of each noodle. Use a spoon to spread the filling all around the bottom ¾ of each noodle. Roll the noodles from the bottom part all the way up. Lay each rolled noodle into the loaf pan, making sure the seam is down.
You don’t want to spread the cheese around the entire noodle because when you roll it, the cheese will ooze out. If you keep it to the bottom three-quarters of the noodle, when it oozes as you roll, it will perfectly fill the un-cheesed top portion.
Spoon the rest of the sauce evenly over the noodles. Top with ½ cup of Parmesan and cover with foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove, uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
By baking an additional 10 minutes uncovered, your cheese will be perfectly toasted. Truly scrumptious!
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