My favorite comfort foods involve pasta.
I’ve always loved my Mom’s stuffed shells, and lasagna was considered a labor of love in our home growing up.
This baked manicotti recipe is egg free for me, features the homemade sauce my husband likes, and all the cheesy goodness my son loves. I’m always excited to find a meal we all like and can eat together.
This is also a great meal if you want to make a double batch and freeze some for later. You can also make the cheese filling in advance and keep it the refrigerator for a day or two.
8 ounce package Manicotti Pasta
For the Filling:
3 cups Part Skim Ricotta Cheese
8 ounces grated Mozzarella Cheese, divided
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
10 ounce package chopped spinach (frozen or you can use fresh spinach)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon parsley
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Sauce:
28 ounces crushed tomatoes (canned or fresh)
6 ounces tomato paste
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon olive oil, divided
1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped fine
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Prepare pasta according to directions on package.
Note: The manicotti noodles will retain their shape and firmness much better if you only cook them in the boiling water for half of the specified time. They need to be firm for stuffing, and will cook more during the baking.
While pasta is cooking, cook spinach according to package and drain thoroughly. Set aside.
Start sauce: Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in large skillet on medium high heat. Add chopped onions and peppers. Cook until onions are translucent.
In a large saucepan, combine remaining olive oil, tomatoes, tomato paste, water, garlic powder, basil oregano, black pepper and salt. Add onion and pepper mixture. Heat on medium heat until bubbling, then reduce to low.
Prepare filling: In a medium bowl, mix ricotta cheese, 3 ounces of the mozzarella cheese, and the parmesan cheese. Add garlic powder, parsley, basil, black pepper and salt. Stir in spinach.
When noodles are about halfway cooked, remove from pot and lay them out carefully to cool.
Bake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or lightly coat a 9X12 inch pan with a little olive oil. Pour about 1/3 of the sauce in the pan.
When noodles are cool enough to touch, carefully fill them with cheese mixture. I used a butter knife to pack them. Arrange them in a single layer in the pan. Top with remaining sauce, cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.
Uncover, sprinkle evenly with remaining mozzarella cheese and bake 10 more minutes. Remove from oven and let sit a few minutes before serving. Makes 6 servings.