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Manicotti and fresh ricotta cheese with whole milk will always have a spot in my heart. From the making of the crepe to the milky magic that goes into the homemade cheese filling, it's a hands-on activity and has become a tradition that I'm excited to pass on to and enjoy with my kids.
- 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray
Ricotta (yields 1 quart cheese)
- 5 Tbsp. distilled white vinegar
Filling and Assembly
- 2 large egg yolks, beaten to blend
- 1 oz. Parmesan, grated, plus more for serving
- 2 10-oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained (optional)
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- 3 cups marinara sauce, preferably homemade, divided
Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat eggs in a large bowl until light, airy, pale in color, and can nearly hold peaks, 6–8 minutes.
Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add flour and salt, beating well between additions, until no clumps of flour remain. With mixer speed on low, slowly pour in 1½ cups water and continue to beat until well incorporated. Cover and let dough rest at least 2 hours (this gives the flour time to hydrate and results in a smoother finished texture).
Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium and spray with nonstick spray. Pour 2 Tbsp. batter into skillet and cook, swirling skillet constantly to encourage crepe to form a nice, round shape, until set, 15–20 seconds. Tap out crepe onto a clean towel; gently flatten any creases. Repeat with remaining batter; if possible, do not stack crepes.
Do Ahead: Dough can be made 1 day ahead; keep covered and chill.
Heat the milk and the cream on a heavy bottomed pot/pan until the cream reaches 200°F. Stirring as the milk heats up and make sure it doesn't come to a boil. Once milk registers 200°F remove from heat and stir in the salt and vinegar. Stir gently for a few seconds and try to create a gently whirling effect to mix the salt and vinegar. This will cause the milk to break into curds. Let the swirling mixture sit at room temp for 10-15 minutes.
Strain the mixture using cheesecloth and a metal strainer. All of the trapped curds in the cloth is the ricotta cheese. Let the cheese hang in the cloth until the desired moisture level is reached. More time draining the drier the cheese. The leftover is milk whey which can be used for other projects and dishes. Store in fridge and use ASAP.
Filling and Assembly
Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix egg yolks, ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Squeeze out excess liquid from spinach, if using, and add to egg mixture; toss to coat.
Spread 1 cup sauce in a 13x9" baking pan. Working one at a time, spoon 2 Tbsp. filling in center of crepe. Spread filling all the way to the ends. Roll up crepe, then flatten slightly with your hands. Transfer seam side down to prepared dish. Working in batches if needed, repeat with remaining crepes and filling, leaving a small gap in between each. Top with sauce and cover with foil. Bake manicotti until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling, 35–45 minutes. Let manicotti cool slightly in pan to set, about 15 minutes. Top with Parmesan and pepper before serving. Repeat full process in a second 13x9" baking pan with extra crepes and ricotta filling, if desired. Can be stored in fridge or freezer for later or cooked for additional servings.
Do Ahead: Filling can be made 1 day ahead; cover and chill. Manicotti can be made 1 month ahead; transfer to airtight containers or freezer bags and freeze.
- 1 (8 ounce) package manicotti pasta
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 ½ cups cottage cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 egg whites
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 (32 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain and cool. Reserve.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet brown beef on medium heat. Drain and cool.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Combine beef, cottage cheese, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg whites and oregano. Mix well. Stuff shells with mixture.
Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. Pour enough spaghetti sauce in dish to cover the bottom. Place stuffed noodles in the dish. Cover with spaghetti sauce and top with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes.
This is really a super easy meal to prepare, especially if you have leftover ground beef and some of our Simply Awesome Pasta Sauce on hand.
With our Ricotta Beef Manicotti recipe, you get all the flavors of lasagna, without all of the effort. This is also a great excuse to use your favorite bakeware!
Combine ricotta, parmesan, eggs, spinach, and seasonings. (You could skip the beef if you'd like.)
Add the beef to the ricotta mixture above and combine well. If you'd like you can substitute the beef with Italian sausage, or even half beef and half pork. We have not tried it with ground turkey, but hey. why not?
Don't like spinach? No problem, leave it out. You can add mushrooms, some roasted bell peppers, whatever you like.
I didn't invent manicotti, so you aren't going to hurt my feelings if you change it up a little. That is what makes cooking fun!
More recipes like this you are sure to love:
Easy Cheddar Chicken Broccoli Casserole
Spanish Style Pork Pepper Sandwich Wraps
Put the stuffing in a plastic bag, cut the corner off, and easily stuff the pasta shells.
Prepare the pasta according to package directions, using the least time possible. For example, if they say boil from 8-10 minutes, boil for 8. The shells are easier to stuff if they are al dente. They will finish cooking in the oven.
Don't even bother trying to stuff the ricotta mixture in with a spoon. You will scream. And screaming in the kitchen is no fun. Just use the bag method for this manicotti recipe.
Place the stuffed shells in a baking dish, cover with sauce and cheese.
Resist the urge to eat the whole pan.
Hungry yet?! Serve with warm, buttery garlic bread and a bottle glass of wine.
- 1 pound (450g) high-quality ricotta cheese (see note)
- Kosher salt
- 1 pound fresh homemade or store-bought lasagna noodles, cut into twelve 4- by 4-inch squares, or 6 sheets no-boil dry lasagna noodles
- 8 ounces (225g) fresh spinach, washed
- 8 ounces (225g) fresh arugula, washed
- 12 ounces (340g) shredded low-moisture mozzarella cheese, divided
- 4 ounces (120g) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
- 1 large egg
- 1 medium clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups (480ml) tomato sauce, such as Quick and Easy Italian-American Red Sauce, Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce, or Fresh Tomato Sauce, divided
- Small handful minced fresh parsley or basil leaves
Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a large plate or a rimmed baking sheet with a triple layer of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Spread ricotta on top and cover with more paper towels or another clean kitchen towel. Let drain for 5 minutes, then remove towels and transfer ricotta to a large bowl. (You may need to use a spatula to scrape all of the ricotta off the towels.) Set aside.
If Using Fresh Pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Working in batches, add pasta squares to boiling water, 6 at a time. Cook for 30 seconds, then, using tongs, transfer to a clean kitchen towel to drain, laying them out in a single layer. Repeat until all pasta squares are cooked, reserving boiling water for step 4. Set aside, keeping squares separated from each other. Continue with step 4.
If Using No-Boil Lasagna Noodles: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Place noodles in a 9- by 13-inch casserole dish. Using a ladle, transfer just enough boiling water from the pot to cover noodles. (Keep remaining boiling water to boil spinach and arugula in step 4, adding more if water level gets too low.) Let pasta sit, agitating occasionally, until pliable but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Drain pasta, then dry on a clean kitchen towel. Cut each noodle in half crosswise to make twelve 4- by 4-inch squares of pasta. Set aside, keeping them separated from each other to avoid sticking. Wipe casserole dish dry.
Add spinach and arugula to boiling water and cook just until wilted, about 20 seconds. Drain greens into the bowl of a salad spinner set in the sink. Run under cold water until thoroughly chilled, then spin in salad spinner to dry.
Spread greens over a clean kitchen towel or a double layer of paper towels and roll into a tight tube, pressing to remove excess moisture. Transfer to a cutting board and roughly chop.
Add greens to bowl with ricotta. Add half of mozzarella, half of Parmesan, egg, garlic, and nutmeg. Season with a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper, then fold with a wooden spoon or spatula to combine.
Spread half of tomato sauce in an even layer in casserole dish. Working with 1 square of pasta at a time, place a few tablespoons of ricotta mixture in a row along the center of the square, then roll it up. Place roll, seam side down, in casserole dish. Continue until all of pasta and filling are used up.
Spoon remaining sauce over manicotti, keeping it tidy along the center of each row of rolls. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese over sauce. Sprinkle all over with remaining Parmesan. Cover tightly with foil.
Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until cheese is well browned and bubbly, about 15 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley or basil and serve.
Manicotti can be prepared through step 8 and refrigerated for up to 3 days before baking. Bake as directed in step 9.
Ingredients & Directions:
- 4 lbs of riccota cheese
- 1 bag of shredded mozzarella cheese
- About a cup of grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
- 2-3 eggs
- Fresh chopped basil, parsley and mint
Manicotti Batter- (should make roughly 100)
If you want to cut the recipe down to 74, us 9 eggs, 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1 1/2 cups of milk.
Place your ingredients in a bowl and set your mixer to 15 minutes on a low speed.
The batter should be on the thin side and smooth. Now here comes the tricky part… making the manicotti.
Mom and I wish Nanny was with us to help guide us through the many batches of trial and error. It takes a certain technique. Is it thin enough? It’s too thick. It’s too long or it’s not fat enough. Eventually we got the hang of it. Don’t lose hope.
Heat your griddle or flat pan to about 300 degrees. Nanny says grease it once and once only. The batter will cook fast but you don’t want it to brown/burn. It will bubble slightly and should easily come off the griddle with a spatula.
We used a metal spoon and poured the batter in a horizontal line and using the back of the spoon pushed the batter around in the shape seen below.
Next to your stove lay out some cooling racks. Transfer your finished manicotti to the cooling racks for a few minutes. You should have lined your counter with wax paper which you will then move the cooled manicotti too (seen below).
Next comes the stuffing! Don’t be skimpy. Place the filling at the edge and then loosely roll it shut. Don’t roll it tight like a burrito.
If you are going to freeze some for leftovers, place them in a box on wax paper.
For the ones you are eating. Place a layer of sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Then add the manicotti, top with sauce and parmesan cheese and bake covered at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.
How To Make Lemon Ricotta Pasta
Printable recipe is below.
If you want a basic Italian lemon ricotta pasta just stick to those ingredients.
You don’t have to add in the optional ingredients as listed below.
However, if you want to add to your dish other veggies or even minced beef, lamb, chicken, or turkey.
Serves 1 (If you want to double or triple the recipe that’s all you need to do)
WHAT Is in Manicotti MADE OF?
- Manicotti Shells: dried pasta shells that are approximately 4-inches long and 1-inch wide. You will need one 8 oz. package Manicotti Shells which contains 14 shells.
- Marinara Sauce: You can use store bought or homemade, but I HIGHLY suggest homemade.
- Filling: Manicotti is ALL bout the filling. And the filling is ALL about the cheese. You can add beef, Italian sausage, spinach, mushrooms, etc., TO the cheeses, but they do not take the place of any of the cheeses. I’ve described the filling in detail below.
My mother's homemade manicotti recipe with Italian sausage and ricotta cheese. Guaranteed crowd pleaser!
While I was home for Christmas, I watched (and photographed) my Mom while we made my favorite manicotti dish. This dish is so filling and perfect for the Winter and it makes enough to eat for a few days. In fact, in my opinion it is even better on day two and three.
This dish looks fantastic and tastes fantastic plus it is pretty easy to make. It does require some time though. I would recommend making it on a lazy weekend day where you can really enjoy the process. Have a glass of wine, make a good dinner, and eat it for a few days.
One note: As with most Italians, my Mom doesn’t have a recipe. I did my best to keep up and write it down as we worked. Luckily there is a lot of leeway in this recipe. If you get it close, it will be delicious.
You don’t eat anything else with manicotti! Just like any other pasta dish, it is not served with a side dish or with salad on the plate. You can serve antipasto, or soup before the manicotti as the main course. You can also serve a meat dish, salad and/or dessert afterwards, but nothing goes with the manicotti on the plate. You have pasta, cheese and greens with a fresh pasta sauce, so there’s really no need for anything else.
Ah&hellipManicotti! Those little pasta tubes that are filled with delicious cheeses and herbs and smothered with marinara sauce Such goodness!
I have had this box of manicotti pasta in my cupboard for at least six months and today is the day to do it! When our kids were growing up I would sometimes make this for dinner and I remember how I struggled getting the filling into those little tubes. Now I have discovered a better way than working with a teaspoon. I put my filling in a zip top plastic bag and mash it to the corner, clip off the corner and squish the filling in.
This recipe for manicotti is made with ricotta cheese, shredded mozzarella, parmesan cheese and lots of fresh basil. Manicotti is an American-Italian dish and t here are so many ways to prepare it, including ground beef, sausage and spinach but any combination you can dream up will be tasty.
I have seen recipes that include a white béchamel sauce on top and baked but I prefer the marinara sauce and if I am in the mood I will make a batch of tomato-garlic sauce. I confess, today I used a jar of good marinara sauce from the grocery store.