This is the easiest manicotti you’ll ever make.
Unless, of course, your Pyrex baking dish explodes in the oven during the last five minutes of baking.
And when I say “explode,” that’s really what I mean. Biggest.Mess.Ever. Not only that, but a ton of ingredients down the drain and no dinner to boot.
As the Tall Boy was scraping the mess out of the bottom of the oven (he’s a keeper!), he said, “This still looks good, even like this.”
Anyway, new weekend, new baking dish…another attempt at the manicotti. When I pulled the dish out of the oven, Doodle yelled downstairs, “Dad! The manicotti dish didn’t explode this time! We can eat it!”
And we did. We ate the heck out of it.
I have to be honest, I’m not the most patient person in the kitchen. And even though the Tall Boy loves manicotti, I rarely make it, because I’d rather gouge my eye with a hot poker than stuff an entire pan of delicate pasta shells. But with this method, there is no stuffing involved. Simply soften some no-boil noodles, dollop on some filling, and roll.
I made my own sauce here, but for an even easier/quicker version, you could certainly use your favorite jarred sauce. I also added sausage to my sauce, because the guys I live with insist on eating meat with their meals. However, this filling was rich enough on its own that I think the dish would stand well enough on its own without meat.
- 2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic gloves, minced
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
- 1 pound cooked sausage, optional
- 24 ounces (3 cups) part-skim Ricotta cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped basil
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 16 no-boil lasagna noodles (I used Barilla)
- Preheat oven to 375 and adjust oven rack to the middle position.
- Pulse tomatoes, one can at a time, in a food processor until coarsely chopped.
- Heat oil, garlic, and pepper flakes in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook until garlic turns golden, about 3 minutes. Do not allow garlic to brown. Stir in chopped tomatoes, sausage (if using), and ½ teaspoon salt. Allow sauce to simmer, and cook until thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in basil and additional salt, to taste.
- Combine ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese, and the remaining ingredients in a large bowl.
- Pour 2-inches of boiling water into a 9x13 pan. Place lasagna noodles into pan, 1 at a time, and soak about 5 minutes, or until pliable. Remove noodles to a clean kitchen towel and dry out your baking dish.
- Spread 1 ½ cups of tomato sauce into the bottom of your 9x13 pan. Spread ¼ cup of cheese filling evenly onto the bottom three-quarters of each noodle. Roll noodle into a tube shape and place into your baking dish seam-side down. Top with remaining sauce.
- Cover dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes or until bubbling, rotating halfway through. Remove foil from pan and sprinkle with remaining 1 cup Parmesan cheese. Turn on broiler, and heat until cheese is spotty brown, about 5 minutes.