My husband and I love Italian food! One of the dishes we enjoy occasionally is this “meatless” recipe for Florentine Manicotti. Pasta shells filled with three cheeses (creamy ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan), spinach, and covered in spaghetti sauce. Yum. I like to think of manicotti as the Italian version of Mexican enchiladas!For anyone unfamiliar with manicotti, it is a large, tube shaped type of pasta that is typically filled with meat or cheese and is baked in spaghetti sauce. This particular recipe is meatless; it’s delicious, and is a fairly easy dish to prepare. I use a recipe I found years ago on a box of pasta, and tweaked it a bit by adding cooked spinach and a couple additional spices to the cheesy filling, to give it a true “Florentine” touch!
The first thing I do when I make this recipe is to cook a small box of frozen spinach, according to the package directions. Then I drain it very well, and let the spinach cool. When it has cooled off, I mix up the cheese filling, then add the spinach.
Here’s what manicotti pasta shells look like BEFORE they are cooked (they’re about 5 inches long):
The tubes of pasta are fragile, so be careful not to break them. Carefully add the pasta to a large pot of boiling, salted water and cook for 7 minutes.
When done, carefully remove the pasta shells to a colander and drain them well.
Now put a layer of spaghetti sauce on the bottom of a baking pan.
Gently fill each of the pasta tubes with the cheese and spinach filling. I hold the shell in my hand and fill one side with the cheese/spinach filling (using a spoon and sometimes a butter knife) clear to the middle, then switch to the other end of the shell and fill the other side. Try to get as much filling into the shell as possible without splitting it.
Once the shells are filled, lay them on top of the spaghetti sauce.
Now cover the manicotti with the rest of the spaghetti sauce. I like to cover the entire pasta shell with sauce, then sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese (or grated mozzarella cheese).
Cover the baking pan with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, then remove the foil and bake an additional 15 minutes longer or until the manicotti is hot and cheese filling is bubbly. Let cool for a minute or two (easier to serve up) , then remove manicotti to serving plates using a spatula. The only thing left to do is grab a fork, dig in, and enjoy this tasty dish!
Hope you will give this recipe a try! I may not have the most mouthwatering “professional” photos to share (staged of course by a photography assistant), but trust me… these are delicious, and I really think you will enjoy them! Have a great day.
Recipe adapted from: Box of American Beauty Manicotti Pasta Shells.
- 6-8 uncooked manicotti pasta shells
- 15 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese (1¾ cups)
- 2 cups (8 ounces) grated mozzarella cheese
- 1 package frozen chopped spinach (cooked per package directions, and drained well)
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
- ⅛ teaspoon ground oregano
- 3 cups (or one 28 ounce jar) prepared spaghetti sauce
- Additional Parmesan or mozzarella cheese (for garnish, optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Cook frozen chopped spinach per package instructions. Remove from heat; drain WELL. Let spinach cool.
- In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, grated mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, parsley, salt, pepper, garlic powder and ground oregano. Stir well until fully combined.
- Add spinach to the cheese mixture. Stir well, to combine.
- Cook manicotti shells according to package instructions (add to boiling water-7 minutes cook time is typical). When done, remove from heat, drain gently, and let dry.
- Fill each shell using a spoon until full of filling.
- Spread some of the spaghetti sauce over the bottom of 13x9 baking pan (enough to fully cover); put the filled pasta in a single layer on top of sauce.
- Spoon the rest of the spaghetti sauce over the top of the manicotti. Sprinkle with additional grated Parmesan cheese (or mozzarella), if desired. Cover pan with aluminum foil.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes; remove foil, then cook an additional 15 minutes. Manicotti should be hot and cheese bubbly when done. Remove pan from oven. Let sit for a minute or two, then gently remove manicotti to individual serving plates using a spatula.
- Serve with a green salad and a slice of crusty french bread, and enjoy!