With a little advance prep this Make-Ahead Manicotti will be ready to pop in the oven when you’re ready for dinner. This no-boil, make-ahead method is a real lifesaver on busy days!
Long before the scores of one-pot pasta dishes started hitting all the recipe sites, I came across this make-ahead method for preparing manicotti. It was the first pasta dish I ever cooked that skipped the step of boiling the pasta and it was truly a revelation to this busy mom of four.
Once I discovered this method, this super satisfying, meatless meal appeared frequently on our table when my guys were involved in high school sports. During water polo season, I was spending my early evening hours on the pool deck and needed dinner, pronto, when we walked in the door. The guys were hungry and tired and Make-Ahead Manicotti was always a happy thing to come home to.
Walk in the door, pop it in the oven, and while it’s baking you can get to work on a salad or veggie side. A warm, satisfying pasta meal is on your table in under an hour. Fabulous!
I’m sharing the base recipe for a vegetarian 3-cheese and spinach filling, but you could really change things up here and add or substitute a variety of ingredients to suit your taste. See the recipe below for my suggestions. I’ve done this recipe lots of different ways and they’ve all been delicious.
I recommend you bake the casserole within 24 to 32 hours for the best result.
Topping the uncooked manicotti with marinara will begin the process of slightly softening it before baking. I recommend you refrigerate it for at least 8 hours so the pasta can soften slightly in advance and become perfectly tender when it is baked.
Yes! Assemble the dish as directed in a freezer-safe dish. Cover it tightly with a double layer of foil and freeze it for up to two months. To cook, safely thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Allow it to rest on the counter for about 30 minutes before baking to take the chill off. Baking time may need to be increased a bit to fully cook the manicotti. An instant read thermometer inserted in the center of the filling should read 165 degrees F before removing it from the oven.
An 8 ounce box should include at least 12 shells but this can very depending on the brand.
You can customize the filling with a variety of different ingredients to suit your taste. If you add substantial ingredients like ground meat or chunky vegetables you might need to use a spoon to fill the manicotti shells instead of a pastry bag.
Toss a simple green salad and pop some Cheater Garlic Bread in the oven to round out this meal.
This post was originally published on December 8, 2015. It has been updated with new text and images.
With a little advance prep this Make-Ahead Manicotti will be ready to pop in the oven when you're ready for dinner. The no-boil, make-ahead method is a real lifesaver on busy days!
Course Main Course, Pasta
Servings 6 servings
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese and eggs until blended. Stir in spinach, 2 cups mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, minced garlic, onion powder, salt and pepper.
Transfer mixture to a gallon sized sealable plastic storage bag. Use scissors to cut off the tip from one of the bottom corners of the bag.
Spread about 1 1/2 cups of marinara sauce over the bottom of a baking dish, spreading it out evenly. Use the makeshift pastry bag to squeeze the spinach and cheese mixture into the uncooked manicotti shells. Arrange the stuffed shells on top of the marinara sauce in a single layer. Pour remaining sauce over the top, being sure that all of the pasta is covered well. Cover the dish with foil and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake covered for 40 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, and bake uncovered for another 7 to 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is beginning to get light golden brown.
Adapted from Allrecipes.com