One of my wonderful friends from Australia goes by the name of Shavenewok on the interwebs. He asked me what manicotti was last night and after a long conversation and a night to sleep it over, he asked me to post my recipe. So, here is the recipe as I know it. I do not have a written recipe because it is something that I was taught how to make from when I was a really small child. I can pretty much only make it in ginormous batches but at least it freezes and reheats well!
For the Filling:
A container of ricotta cheese (in NJ i used the 3lb containers, in CA I use a 2lb container)
salt and pepper
1-2 eggs (depending on how much ricotta cheese you have – for a 2lb container I use 1 large egg usually)
Mix everything together in one bowl. I don’t have exact measurements because I do everything by taste. This means that I mix all the spices together in the bowl with the ricotta and then taste it. If it tastes like it needs more garlic or more salt or something, I add it at this point. I add the egg last so that I don’t have to taste the ricotta with a raw egg in it 😛
I use this filling in pretty much every thing I make. I can do stuffed large shell shaped pasta, ziti, and lasagna. You can also add a box of really well drained frozen and defrosted spinach to the ricotta mixture and it is delicious. On Christmas day, I made a meat sauce and used that to bake the manicotti.
Just before mixing the ricotta, put a pot of salted water on to boil. Throw in the manicotti shells and cook until they are al dente or a little bit under done. If you cook them too much, they will fall apart. They will finish baking in the oven anyway.
Once the shells are finished partially cooking, you drain them and rinse them in cold water to cool them so you can work with them. Fill each shell with ricotta. Put some tomato sauce in the bottom of a glass 13x9in pan and place the manicotti in rows in the pan. Top with more sauce and bake for 40 minutes or til the sauce starts to bubble. Add shredded mozzarella and bake til the mozzarella is melted.
I had a terrible time with my manicotti shells this time because they are like tubes and I could not get the cheese into them without splitting them. I finally split them on purpose and put 2 spoonfuls into it and folded it over and placed it seam side down in the sauce in the pan. It seemed to work ok and it was still delicious. Shells are way way easier to fill because of their shape. Ziti would just have the ricotta and the noodles all mixed together and then sauce and cheese on the top. Lasagna is basically just the same stuff with the flat noodles and layered.
I hope this helps anyone that wants to make manicotti. I know that I didn’t make it easy for you but if anyone has questions, I am always checking the site! 😀