Let’s talk ultimate comfort food! I’m talking delicious pasta stuffed with a smooth, creamy filling of rich Ricotta, Mozzarella and Parmesan Cheeses, punctuated with garlic, parsley and lemon and topped with zesty pasta sauce. This is the best of what good pasta dishes are all about- warm, filling, melt-in-your-mouth good! And it’s not all that difficult, if you know one easy secret.
What You Need To Make Three Cheese Manicotti
- manicotti shells
- pasta sauce
- ricotta cheese
- mozzarella cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- lemon juice
- garlic, salt, pepper
- piping bag or large plastic zip top bag
I’ve always loved cheesy, saucy, romantic pasta dishes. There is just something about them that says home cooked comfort food. They are a perfect go-to when having guests over for dinner, to take to a family who needs a meal or just when you want to sit down and look at your own family’s faces across the table. There’s no better incentive for slowing down schedules and making time for the dinner table than the beckoning of melting cheese and bubbling sauce.
And while Baked Manicotti has always been one of my favorite dishes, it wasn’t always easy fiddling with filling those slippery pasta shells until I learned a simple, easy secret that made all the difference. It’s all in how you cook the pasta. And drain it.
First, the pasta should only be boiled for 5-6 minutes. You just want to soften it, not cook it all the way through. This makes it so much easier to work with. Besides, it still has 30 minutes to bake in the oven smothered in sauce after we fill it.
Secondly, when the manicotti shells are done, never drain them in the colander. Ever. This was always my biggest mistake. Piled in that colander on top of one another, my shells would collapse, split and stick together. That doesn’t make filling them easy!
After 5 minutes or so, remove the pasta straight from the boiling water with tongs or large slotted skimmer and place them in a single layer on wax paper. This makes all the difference in the world when it comes to having lovely, sturdy pasta to quickly fill.
There’s nothing like a wonderfully inviting pasta dish to warm your friends and family when the temperatures drop. And it’s even better when they are easy to put together and bake!
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Classic 3 Cheese Baked Manicotti
- piping bag
- 10 Manicotti pasta shells
- 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 2 tsp Salt
- 15 oz Ricotta cheese
- 2 C Mozzarella cheese, divided into 1 1/2 C & 1/2 C
- 1/2 C Parmesan cheese, divided into 1/4 C & 1/4 C
- 1 large Egg
- 1/2 C Chopped parsley
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Minced garlic
- 1/2 tsp Lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp Ground black pepper
- 1 jar pasta sauce
- Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit.
- In a large pot, bring water, olive oil and 2 tsp of salt to a boil. Add manicotti shells. Pot should be large enough to allow manicotti shells plenty of room to move while boiling. Boil for 6 minutes only. Gently remove pasta from pot with tongs or large spoon. Place in a single layer on wax paper. Do not drain in colander. Pasta should be al dente.
- In a medium bowl, mix together Ricotta, 1 1/2 C Mozarella, 1/4 C Parmesan and egg. Stir in parsley, lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic. Spoon mixture into piping bag or large zip top bag and snip off the corner.
- Spread 1/2 of pasta sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 or large casserole dish. Using the piping bag, fill each manicotti shell with cheese mixture and place side by side in casserole dish. Cover with rest of pasta sauce. Top with rest of cheese. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
- Garnish with extra parsley before serving, if desired.
Can I Make This Dish Ahead of Time?
- Yes, you can either just make the filling a day ahead or make the filling and stuff the pasta. Just cover tightly and refrigerate. Also bring your dish to room temperature before placing it in your preheated oven.
Can I Freeze This Dish?
- Sure can! Just make your filling, stuff the shells, cover with sauce and cheese and freeze. It can be frozen after it’s baked too, but I think the pasta is better if frozen beforehand. Make a double batch and freeze the second batch for an easy meal later!
What’s The Difference Between Boiling and Not Boiling Your Pasta Beforehand?
- Quite simpy, it’s 30 minutes cooking time. That’s right! Not boiling the pasta might seem like it saves time on the front end, but it takes an extra 30-35 minutes to bake! I would rather spend 5-6 minutes boiling the pasta in the beginning and save 30 later. Plus, you have to add water to your dish, and I just think the pasta, sauce and filling taste better not being baked in extra water.
Other Recipes You’ll Love
- Easy White Ravioli Casserole
- Rotel Chicken & Spaghetti
- Crowd Pleasing Lasagna
- Cheesy Beef Noodle Casserole
- Spaghetti Stuffed Garlic Bread
MAKING IT EASY TO HOST & SERVE
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