With a little advance prep this Make-Ahead Manicotti will be ready to pop in the oven when you're ready for dinner. The no-boil, make-ahead method is a real lifesaver on busy days!
Servings: 6 servings
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese (part-skim or regular)
- 2 eggs
- 9 ounces frozen chopped spinach thawed (squeeze out excess liquid)
- 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese divided (part-skim or whole milk)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese divided
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces uncooked manicotti shells (12 shells)
- 36 ounces marinara sauce (I used 1-1/2 (24 ounce) jars)
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese and eggs until blended. Stir in spinach, 2 cups mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, minced garlic, onion powder, salt and pepper.
Transfer mixture to a gallon sized sealable plastic storage bag. Use scissors to cut off the tip from one of the bottom corners of the bag.
Spread about 1 1/2 cups of marinara sauce over the bottom of a baking dish, spreading it out evenly. Use the makeshift pastry bag to squeeze the spinach and cheese mixture into the uncooked manicotti shells. Arrange the stuffed shells on top of the marinara sauce in a single layer. Pour remaining sauce over the top, being sure that all of the pasta is covered well. Cover the dish with foil and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake covered for 40 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, and bake uncovered for another 7 to 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is beginning to get light golden brown.
Nutrition information was calculated with part-skim ricotta and mozzarella and reduced sodium marinara sauce.
I recommend you refrigerate the casserole for at least 8 hours or up to 32 hours for the best result.
Optional Filling Ingredients
You can customize the filling with a variety of different ingredients to suit your taste. If you add substantial ingredients like ground meat or chunky vegetables you might need to use a spoon to fill the manicotti shells instead of a pastry bag.
- Add chopped fresh mushrooms.
- Substitute half of the mozzarella with shredded provolone for some really nice flavor.
- A little (about 1/3 to 1/2 pound) cooked, crumbled Italian sausage - I like to use turkey or chicken sausage to reduce fat and calories.
- Finely chopped rotisserie chicken (fully-cooked chicken) is also a great choice.
- Omit the spinach and add some fresh basil for a simply luscious cheese manicotti.
- Assemble the dish as directed in a freezer-safe dish. Cover it tightly with a double layer of foil and freeze it for up to two months. To cook, safely thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Allow it to rest on the counter for about 30 minutes before baking to take the chill off. Baking time may need to be increased a bit to fully cook the manicotti. An instant read thermometer inserted in the center of the filling should read 165 degrees F before removing it from the oven.
Serving: 2shells | Calories: 552kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 120mg | Sodium: 977mg | Potassium: 398mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 5701IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 794mg | Iron: 2mg