Manicotti has always been one of my absolute favorites! Whenever my birthday rolled around, and my mom asked me what I wanted for my special dinner, I always picked manicotti. Manicotti is such a classic Italian dish; pasta tubes filled with a savory cheese blend, smothered with rich, delicious tomato sauce.
1 package manicotti shells (11-12 shells)
15 ounces ricotta cheese (I used low fat, but go ahead and use whole milk if you would like)
2 cups shredded mozzarella and provolone cheese blend (sargento sells this blend)
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Homemade tomato sauce (I use this recipe, eliminate the meat)
In a medium sized bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella and provolone blend cheeses in a bowl and add the parsley, black pepper and salt to season. Mix well. You can either use a spoon or clean, dry hands (I found this option to be much easier.)
Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Make sure not to over cook them. When they tend crack if over-cooked. However, if this does happen, it is an easy fix. I'll go into that later.
Place the cooked shells in dish, and allow them to cool for a few minutes.
Now it is time to fill those shells with that yummy cheese mixture!
Before you begin, prepare your baking dish. In a pyrex glass baking dish cove the bottom of the dish with a generous helping of sauce.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Again, this can be done with your hands, and again, make sure that they are clean. Or, if you don't like to get your hands dirty, this can be done with a teaspoon or a baby spoon (but I promise you, it is more difficult this way.)
Carefully hold the shell in one hand, and stuff cheese in little by little with the other hand. Make sure not to over-stuff, and break the shells.
After stuffing each shell, place it into the baking dish, in a single layer.
Now back to the shells that have been split, place cheese in the middle, and wrap it like a burrito, and place it seam down in your prepared baking dish.
Smother the stuffed shells with the remainder of that delicious sauce.
Top with the remaining mozzarella cheese and provolone blend.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 35 minutes or until cheese is nice and bubbly.
Be sure and serve your delicious crowd-pleasing manicotti, with some warm and fresh bread.