I originally made these as stuffed shells but had some manicotti in the house and returned to this filling since it was so tasty!
Stuffed Shells and Manicotti were not an Italian food that I grew up with (or had ever made before this year), probably because they are not as easy as most other pastas. With just a little bit of time (assemble the night before – the way you would lasagna) you can have the awesome flavors you want and crave with the beautiful presentation you deserve!
So next time manicotti OR large shells are on sale, pick up a box and try this filling out for yourself, I promise you’ll be happy you did! (and feel free to use as many or as few containers to prepare this in like I did – you can even make more than one night’s dinner ready to go and just leave in the fridge or freezer)
before the oven - because let's face it.. once cooked they just don't look as pretty!
[adapted from Handle the Heat & Two Peas and their Pod]
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 can mushrooms
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 15 oz ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded (divided)
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (divided)
- 1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed, & drained (or fresh)
- 1 T fresh basil
- Dash of crushed red pepper
- Salt and pepper
- About 3 cups of marinara sauce
- 1 box (about 18 jumbo) pasta shells OR 1 box (about 12) manicotti, cooked al dente (read box instructions)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray Pyrex 9 by 13 pan with cooking spray and put about 1/2 cup of sauce in the bottom of the pan Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Once hot, add the onion, cook until soft. Add in garlic, mushrooms. Remove from heat and cool. Meanwhile: in a large bowl combine the ricotta, 1/4 cup of the mozzarella, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, stir well. Add in the egg, spinach, basil, crushed red pepper, salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. Mix well until creamy. Then, add the mushroom, onion, red pepper mixture.
Place the cooked manicotti/shells in the pan. Make sure they are spaced out evenly. Stuff each manicotti/shell with cheese/veggie mixture. Pour the remaining sauce over the stuffed shells. Add the leftover mozzarella and parmesan. (refrigerate with saran & foil at this point if making the night before, and add about 10 minutes to baking time – just go ahead and put your cold pan in cold oven and then start the timer once you are preheated and your pan is up to temperature!)
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes – manicotti/shells should be bumbling and irresistible! Let cool for a few minutes and serve
burn – your – face – off warm.