The question of the day is mani-can-you? Mani-can-you handle homemade tomato sauce and tubes of noodles stuffed with cheese and spinach? The correct answer is why, yes, I can. Do you like manicotti? I certainly always have except they can be a pain in the tush to stuff with that delectable cheese until that pesky problem was solved with not pre-cooking the manicotti and using a piping bag.
Also do you know how easy it is to make your own sauce, well I'm glad you asked that question because I will show you.
First, you have to make the pasta sauce for the manicotti. To make the sauce you need: 1 large can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes, 1 can (28oz.) crushed tomatoes, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 3 medium garlic cloves, chopped, 2 teaspoons dried basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt,1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake (optional). In a heavy-bottom pot, add the olive oil and throw in the chopped garlic and red pepper flake, if using.
Heat these ingredients together until fragrant and add in both cans of tomatoes and dried basil. Simmer until thickened, about 12 to 15 minutes.
For the manicotti, you need 10 ounces of frozen chopped spinach, 8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese, 15 oz. ricotta cheese, 4 oz. cream cheese, 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese, 2 large eggs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 3 to 4 cups marinara sauce (use sauce from above recipe), 1 box manicotti noodles (12-14 noodles), 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese, for topping.
In your dish 9X13, pour in 1 1/2 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of the dish. In a large bowl, combine the thawed out, squeezed spinach, eggs, mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese and cream cheese. Add in the 1/2 cup of Parmesan or Romano cheese along with the salt and pepper and stir, stir, stir.
In a piping bag, fill it with the cheese mixture then you are ready to stuff the manicotti noodles.
*if you don't have a piping bag, you can use a gallon plastic bag and snipe the corner of it off to pipe the cheese into the noodles.
If you put the pipping down with the tip down into a tall glass, fold the edges of the bag over the rim of the glass, it will make it easier for you to add the cheese filling into the piping bag.
Pipe the cheese filling into the noodles on both sides and then place them into the marinara sauce in the dish.
Continue this process until all the noodles have been filled.
After the noodles are filled, add 2 1/2 cup of sauce over the noodles then sprinkle with the other 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese then bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.
Cover the dish with foil before placing in the oven. After 50 minutes of cooking, remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes.
If you don't want to bake the manicotti the day you make it, you can cover it with foil and refrigerator until ready to bake. Then serve with some bread, a nice salad and enjoy and then should out mangia too!