I have been making this recipe for years, it is *the best* manicotti recipe hands down! --- I have made this many times for dinner parties and have made it for socials and large gatherings increasing amounts of coarse, I have even served this at my Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday table as an extra dish along with a turkey or ham --- to save time I always mix up the filling a day ahead and refrigerate this will also give the flavors a chance to blend together, or you may prepare up to step #9 cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours --- don't forget to cook the spinach first before using for this recipe
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 1⁄4 cup onion, finely chopped (optional)
- 2 teaspoons fresh garlic (no more than that or the garlic will overpower the other ingredients!)
- 1 1⁄2 cups ricotta cheese
- 1 1⁄2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided (can use a bit more)
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1⁄3 cup grated parmesan cheese (can use more)
- 1 teaspoon italian seasoning
- salt (to taste I use seasoned salt)
- 1⁄2-1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (or to taste)
- 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach (cooked according to package directions, then hand-squeezed dry to remove excess moisture)
- 8 manicotti, cooked and drained (you might use more shells so I would cook 10)
- 4 -6 cups marinara sauce (see my Kittencal's Marinara Pasta Sauce (Vegetarian))
- 1⁄4 cup parmesan cheese (or to taste)
- mozzarella cheese, for topping (any amount desired)
- Set oven to 350 degrees F.
- Butter a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.
- In a skillet, saute onion (if using) in oil for about 4 minutes or until softened (adding in the garlic the last 2 minutes).
- In a mixing bowl combine the ricotta cheese, 1-1/2 cup mozza cheese, cream cheese, 6 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning; beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and well combined.
- Season with white salt or seasoned salt and black pepper to taste.
- Stir in onion mixture and spinach; mix well to combine.
- Spoon into cooked and cooled manicotti shells.
- Pour half of the pasta sauce into the prepared baking dish.
- Arrange shells over sauce (at this point you may cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours, or continue with the recipe as follows).
- Top with the remaining sauce, use a spoon to spread the sauce over the shells (the sauce does not have to cover the shells completely).
- Sprinkle about 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (or to taste) over the sauce.
- Cover and bake for 25 minutes.
- Uncover and top with mozzeralla cheese (any amount desired).
- Bake 5 mins longer, or until cheese is melted.
- Let stand 10 mins before serving.
- Note; If desired the spinach can be omitted completely.