Lasagna-lovers, listen up — manicotti is like lasagna’s fancy older sister, and you’re gonna want to make it ASAP. It has all the same comfort food satisfaction as your favorite pasta bake, but instead of being layered, the noodles are stuffed with fragrant garlicky ricotta, Parmesan, and savory beef, making manicotti the perfect cozy weekend dinner.
The creamy, cheesy bake takes a fair amount of prep to help it bake up beautifully (and tasty!), but we’ll walk through it step by step. Let’s get started.
What Is Stuffed Manicotti, Anyway?
In the canon of classic Italian baked pastas (think: lasagna, baked ziti, and stuffed shells) manicotti is perhaps the most elegant. Long pasta tubes (the manicotti) are filled with a cheesy, meaty filling (the meat can vary from sausage to pork to beef) and baked until tender. The best manicotti boasts tender pasta and lots of deep flavors from garlic, cheese, and baked pasta sauce.
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Like its baked pasta brethren, manicotti requires the right mix of smart ingredients and a few key steps to make it the best.
Key Steps to the Best Beef and Cheese Manicotti
- Brown and season the beef. To achieve the deeply savory flavor manicotti is known for, you’ll brown and season the beef first. Let it cool before you make the filling.
- Boil the manicotti shells. Although you can skip the boiling and bake your uncooked manicotti noodles longer with more sauce, boiling the noodles in salted water makes filling them easier (the noodles are more flexible) and guarantees you don’t end up with crunchy bits of pasta. Boil the noodles for about eight minutes (check the package), until they’re flexible but not cooked through. Drain and cool before filling.
- Use a zip-top bag for filling. Making the filling is simple: Stir together ricotta, Parmesan, an egg, and that gorgeous browned beef. But try spooning it into the noodles and you’ll likely end up with a mess or, worse, broken noodles. Instead, pipe the filling. You don’t need a fancy pipping bag — just use a gallon-sized zip-top bag.
- Sandwich the filled manicotti with sauce. To ensure your noodles bake up tender, you’ll spread half the sauce into the bottom of the baking dish, and the rest atop the filled noodles.
Assembling and Serving Beef and Cheese Manicotti
Once assembled, you can cover your manicotti and refrigerate it up to one day in advance — just be sure to take the chill off your prepped manicotti by removing it from the fridge while your oven preheats. Or, bake it right away. It takes just about 35 to 40 minutes, at which point it should be warmed through with browned cheese and bubbly edges.
Serve the noodles as you would lasagna or baked shells — with a simple salad and garlic bread to swipe your plate clean.
Beef & Cheese Manicotti
- 2 tablespoons
- 12 ounces
lean ground beef
large shallot, finely chopped
- 4 cloves
- 3 cups
marinara sauce, divided
dried manicotti pasta tubes (8 ounces)
- 1 (15 to 16-ounce) container
full-fat ricotta cheese
- 2 cups
shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
- 1/2 cup
finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1/2 cup
chopped fresh parsley leaves, divided
large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon
Cook the beef for the filling. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the ground beef and cook until the meat begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the shallot and garlic, cook until the shallot is translucent and the beef is cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Heat the oven to 375ºF and prepare the baking dish. Arrange a rack in the middle of the the oven and heat the oven to 375ºF. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread about 1 1/2 cups of the marinara sauce in the bottom of the dish and set aside.
Boil the manicotti shells. Add the manicotti to the water and boil until they are al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Mix up the filling. Add the ricotta, half of mozzarella, half of the Parmesan, half of the parsley, the egg, and the salt to the cooled beef mixture and stir to combine well.
Fill the shells. Transfer the beef and cheese mixture to a piping bag or gallon size ziptop bag. Snip off a 1/2-inch hole in one bottom corner of the bag, then pipe the filling into each manicotti tube (about generous 1/3 cup each). Nestle each filled manicotti in the sauce, packed them tightly together in a single layer.
Top the filled shells with the remaining sauce and cheeses. Pour the remaining 1 1/2 cups sauce evenly over the manicotti and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Bake uncovered until the sauce is bubbly, the cheese is browned, and the noodles are very tender, 35 to 40. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley just before serving.
Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.
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