Manicotti pasta shells stuffed with ricotta cheese, parsley, spinach, mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese and topped with pasta sauce. Have dinner on the table in 30 minutes!
Spinach manicotti is a classic and timeless recipe around my house. I’ve made it for years and everyone makes plans to be home for the good meal. It’s easy to prepare and requires a few simple ingredients. We aren’t vegetarians around here, but we do like to enjoy meals without meat too. I’ve made this pasta dish with a numerous times and it always comes with a big heaping load of cheese and spinach.
This pasta dish is a great way to sneak vegetables into dinner. I’ve added spinach and chopped parsley. I’ve made similar recipes with diced carrots and celery, too! This hot dish is great to make during cooler months like fall and winter as it is such a comfort food. We also enjoy making it during summer when I have plenty of fresh spinach and parsley growing in the garden and whatever else I have extra of!
When we go out to eat on the weekends occasionally I’ll order manicotti from and Italian restaurant. Guys, it’s such a great recipe that I just have to try everyone’s from all around town. I do wish they would add more vegetables, but I suppose not everyone will like that.
This meal is simple to prepare and you’ll want to be sure to read my tips on how to soften the pasta shells perfectly in order to stuff it with filling. Oh, and the filling, very easy to prepare and get into the shells. You can read about that below too.
To make the filling, in a large bowl combine ricotta cheese, defrosted spinach, chopped parsley, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 Parmesan cheese, 1 cup mozzarella cheese and 1 egg. Add a pinch of salt to taste, if desired. Using a spatula, mix and blend ingredients until fully incorporated.
To fill the shells easily, I’ve used a pastry bag but a zip lock bag will work as well. In a tall glass, fold the bag inside of it and fill the bag half way with filling and cut off a small portion of the tip, about 1/4 inch.
If you’ve ever made manicotti before and the shells were too soggy and crushed to get the filling in the center, you’ll want to read this tip. Boil noodles in hot water with olive oil. Salt usually makes noodles soggy so you’ll want to use oil. Once the water is boiling, set the timer for 5 minutes and make a single layer of noodles. Be certain that the noodles are not resting on top of each other. This will crush the shell and make it very difficult to get the filling in the center. Remove noodles after 5 minutes into a strainer in a single layer and rinse under cold water. Pipe filling into the end and fill the shell completely.
Prepare a 9 x 13 baking dish by coating it with nonstick cooking spray. Pour 2/3 pasta sauce of the bottom of the pan with 1 tablespoon water and spread evenly across baking dish. Place noodles in pan. Repeat the process with remaining shells by boiling and filling with mixture. Pipe an remaining filling in between the shells.
Place 1 tablespoon in pasta sauce jar, shake and spread across the top of the shells. Evenly sprinkle 1 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese across the top. Sprinkle additional parsley over the top if desired. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
- 10 ounces frozen spinach
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 24 ounces ricotta cheese
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese , divided
- 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- 1 box manicotti pasta shells (14 shells)
- 24 ounces pasta sauce
- 2 tablespoon olive oil , divided
- 3 tablespoons water
- garlic & salt - to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Fill a large pot with water and place on high heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. In a bowl, defrost frozen spinach and drain water out really well over the sink. Meanwhile prepare mixture. In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, defrosted spinach, olive oil and egg then mix very well to combine; set aside. Using a pastry bag or zip lock bag, cut off a little piece of the end and fill it with manicotti filling half way to the top. Prepare a 9 x 13 baking dish by greasing it with nonstick cooking spray. Pour 2/3 pasta sauce over the top with 2 tablespoon water and spread evenly. Place 2 tablespoons water in pasta jar and shake, pour out a little more to cover the bottom evenly.
To make the pasta, it's very important that as the shells get placed in hot water, they DO NOT go on top of each other. This will crush the shell and make it very hard to get the filling inside. I usually do 7 shells at a time with none of them touching each other. Set the timer for 5 minutes then carefully lift shells to strainer without them being place on top of one another. Rinse under cold water for a few seconds. Pipe filling into each shell. Place remainder of shells in water and follow the same directions until complete. Layer the shells in baking dish. Place 1 tablespoon water in pasta jar, shake and spread remaining sauce evenly across the top. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese over the top. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes.