When I was a kid and we’d go to an Italian restaurant, there was one dish that I ordered every single time without fail – manicotti. It was my staple dish; no matter how many other delicious things there were on the menu, all I wanted was manicotti.
Those delicious little tubes of al dente pasta filled with soft creamy ricotta cheese and spinach and topped with a light pink cream sauce was truly my idea of Italiano heaven!
Well, my life seems to have come full circle because my oldest boy is sure following in his mama’s footsteps. Manicotti is now his all time favorite and I aim to please. So here is my family recipe for manicotti – it’s sure to become a favorite in your home too!
- 1 box of manicotti shells, cooked according to directions on the box
- 4 slices of mozzarella
Cheese and spinach filling
- 1 container of ricotta cheese
- ½ package frozen chopped spinach (thawed and drained)
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil (finely sliced)
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 can tomato sauce or puree
- 1 teaspoon butter
- ¼ cup light cream
- 2 tablespoons light extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic
- ½ onion
- 3 or 4 big leaves of fresh basil
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients for the cheese and spinach filling. Spoon into a large Ziploc bag and cut a corner off the bottom to use it as a piping bag. Place in refrigerator.
Combine all ingredients for the sauce and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove onion, garlic cloves and basil.
Pipe cheese mixture into each manicotti shell. Fill one end and then fill the other. Note – don’t try to fill the whole thing in one pipe because it won’t work and your shell will tear in half.
Arrange in a single layer in a Pyrex dish or casserole dish that’s been sprayed with non-stick spray or a drizzle of olive oil. Ladle a few spoonfuls of the pink sauce over the center of each filled manicotti shell.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove foil and add slices of mozzarella cheese on top of the manicotti. Then pop it back in the oven for an additional five or ten minutes until the cheese is ooey gooey and melted on top!