Prep 1 hr
Cook 40 mins
The filling amount should be plenty to stuff 14 shells with maybe a small amount left over --- to remove the bitterness from the spinach, cook firstly according to package directions --- to save time you may cook the ground beef/spinach mixture up to step #4 and refrigerate for up to 2 days. For easier stuffing, warm the mixture in the microwave to just room temperature before adding in the mozzarella cheese and eggs, then proceed with recipe as stated --- ground beef or bulk Italian sausage may be used successfully. This recipe was developed and tested using both on different occasions. I prefer the Italian sausage meat, you could use half of each if desired --- also see my Kittencal's Spinach & Four-Cheese Manicotti (Vegetarian).
- 14 manicotti, cooked (boil only to al dente, try to undercook slightly)
- 3 1⁄2 cups prepared marinara sauce, divided (see my Kittencal's Marinara Pasta Sauce (Vegetarian))
- 1 1⁄2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided (can use more)
- 2⁄3 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
- 3⁄4 lb lean ground beef (or use half ground beef and bulk italian sausage meat)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 -3 tablespoons fresh minced garlic (about 6 large cloves, minced)
- 1 (10 ounce) package frozen spinach (cooked according to package directions then hand-squeezed dry)
- 3⁄4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 8 ounces ricotta cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 large eggs, beaten (or use 3 small eggs)
- 1 -2 teaspoon seasoning salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (or to taste)
- Grease two 9-inch baking pans.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat stirring with wooden spoon cook the ground beef or bulk sausage meat with the onion until browned breaking up the meat while cooking (about 10-12 minutes the meat should be lightly browned) drain fat.
- Add in garlic and cook, stirring for 2 minutes.
- Transfer to a bowl then mix in the drained spinach, Parmesan cheese and ricotta cheese; set aside to cool (about 10-15 minutes).
- When the ground beef is cool add in mozzarella cheese, eggs, seasoned salt and black pepper mix well to combine, at this point you may season with more salt and pepper if desired and if you want more garlic flavor add in some garlic powder to the mixture.
- Spread about 1/4 to 1/3 cup marinara sauce onto the bottom of each baking pan.
- Carefully stuff each noodle with the beef mixture then place in one layer in the baking dish (you should have 7 in each dish).
- FOR ONE PAN; drizzle about 1-1/2 cups (or more) marinara sauce over shells, sprinkle about 3/4 cup or more of mozzarella cheese over sauce, then sprinkle with 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese on top; repeat with remaining pan.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (oven rack to to lowest position).
- Cover each pan with foil and bake 25 minutes, uncover and continue baking for another 8 minutes (allow to sit for about 15 minutes before serving).