Babs’s Manicotti

While I was home for Christmas, I watched (and photographed) my Mom while we made my favorite manicotti dish. This dish is so filling and perfect for the Winter and it makes enough to eat for a few days. In fact, in my opinion it is even better on day two and three.

This is the full dish:

This dish looks fantastic and tastes fantastic plus it is pretty easy to make. It does require some time though. I would recommend making it on a lazy weekend day where you can really enjoy the process. Have a glass of wine, make a good dinner, and eat it for a few days.

One note: As with most Italians, my Mom doesn’t have a recipe. I did my best to keep up and write it down as we worked. Luckily there is a lot of leeway in this recipe. If you get it close, it will be delicious.

Babs's Manicotti

Just a moment please...

Yield
Serve 6.
Prep Time
Total Time

My mother’s homemade manicotti recipe with Italian sausage and ricotta cheese. Guaranteed crowd pleaser!

Ingredients

1 pound manicotti
1 pound Italian sausage (use however hot you can stand)
1/2 pound mushrooms, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 pounds ricotta
1/2 pound mozzarella
1 jar Marinara sauce
1 28 ounce can Italian stewed tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
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Directions

1) Start sauce by combining the marinara, tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste in a large sauce pan. Bring that to a simmer and then let it bubble on low.

2) Next, you need to brown all of that sausage. Get it started in a pan. Break it apart and let it brown. About half way through add those mushrooms and chopped garlic. You want those flavors incorporated with the sausage.

3) That has to cook for 15 or 20 minutes and then you need to drain some of the oil away. You can pour off a bit of it or let it drain on a few paper towels.

4) Cook pasta according to package. Don’t overcook the pasta or it will fall apart while stuffing it.

5) Mix ricotta and the sausage mixture. Also add all of your parsley except 2 Tablespoons of it. Stir this well and it get it all mixed up. You don’t want huge chunks of sausage or ricotta stuffed in these guys.

6) Stuff manicotti with sausage mixture. Work slowly and from both ends to make sure you get them completely stuffed. A small spoon helps.

7) As you finish the manicotti lay them in a 9×13 baking dish. Put down a layer of marinara sauce first and then layer in your shells. When all the shells are in pour in the rest of the sauce, the mozzarella, and the additional parsley.

8) This needs to bake for probably 40 minutes at 350. What you are looking for is the signature cheese bubble in the middle of the dish. Once you pull this out, make sure you let it rest for 10 minutes or you will burn your mouth!

The first step in this recipe is getting the sauce going. It is better the longer it simmers so get it started first. Combine the marinara, tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste in a large sauce pan. Bring that to a simmer and then let it bubble on low.

The good sauce.

The good sauce.

Next, you need to brown all of that sausage. Get it started in a pan (no oil needed). Break it apart and let it brown. About half way through add those mushrooms and chopped garlic. You want those flavors incorporated with the sausage.

Sausage makes the filling savory and awesome.

Sausage makes the filling savory and awesome.

That has to cook for 15 or 20 minutes and then you need to drain some of the oil away. We just put it on a paper towel and let it drain while we prepped other stuff. So now you have your marinara bubbling and your sausage browned. Nice work, but we need some other stuff prepped.

Some of the basics.

Some of the basics.

Honestly, I had never really watched my mom make this and I would have messed up the manicotti step. I would have over thought the whole thing. What you should do is follow the directions on the package. DUH. Just dunk the guys in boiling salt water for the time listed on the bag which should be like 6-7 minutes. See, I would have tried to under-cook them thinking that I was going to let them finish cooking in the oven.

The manicotti makers already account for this in the cooking instructions. So when you pull them out after 6-7 minutes, they will still be pretty firm.

Gently boiled.

Gently boiled.

Now take your ricotta and mix in all of that sausage mixture. Also add all of your parsley except 2 Tablespoons of it. Stir this well and it get it all mixed up. You don’t want huge chunks of sausage or ricotta stuffed in these guys.

Mixing the filling.

Mixing the filling.

Ok. Now for the fun part. We have to stuff those manicotti with all of that ricotta sausage stuffing. Go slow and attack it from both ends. While the photo below is with a spoon, I learned after about two that the best way to handle it is with clean fingers.

Also, you may notice that one pound of manicotti is more like 24 manicotti shells. I assume that you will be like me and break 2 or 3 of them. Leave yourself a margin of error on these as some will split all the way down and then won’t bake well.

Hint: Use your fingers.

Hint: Use your fingers.

Next you need to fit as many of these as you can in a baking dish. Babs and I used a 9 X 13 dish and put a layer of that marinara first. Then we piled in as many of these stuffed pasta things as we could. Followed by all of the rest of the sauce, the mozzarella, and the additional parsley.

Get it?

Get it?

This needs to bake for probably 40 minutes at 350. What you are looking for is the signature cheese bubble in the middle of the dish. Once you pull this out, make sure you let it rest for 10 minutes or you will burn your mouth! (That’s my Mom’s instructions.)

One good sized serving. I went back for a second.

One good sized serving. I went back for a second.

This dish is really fantastic and I have no doubt that if you make it you will like it. As an aside, the bread on the above plate is the bread mentioned in yesterday’s post.

The thing about this dish that I really love though is that it reminds me how powerful cooking and food can be to bring people together. It makes me smile just looking at the photos because it recalls a wonderful time with family.

I’m sure everyone has those meals that hold a special place. This is definitely one of those for me.

14 comments on “Babs’s Manicotti

      1. Hi Carolyn, Manicotti shells are pretty thick and sturdy. You need to boil them first before stuffing and baking them. Good luck!

  1. I just got through making this. My first observations are that it is a good example of the saying "a labor of love". It would have been easier and more enjoyable to also have my mother, sister or a good friend in the kitchen to help. That would have cut the time by a bunch. I have spent three hours and it is ready to go into the oven. Stuffing the manicotti, the part I thought would be the hardest, actually was very simple. Just used a small teaspoon and it just slipped right in there. In fact, it was almost too easy because I really stuffed the first half too full. Ran out of meat and cheese mixture on the 16th shell. I think it could have gone a little bit further if I hadn't stuffed as much in. Also I only used 8 oz of ricotta and 8 oz of cream cheese because I was afraid it would be too much cheese. But the 16 manicotti it made fit just right in the baking dish so it worked out fine. Will find out soon if the extra cheese would have helped.

    Well, I am off to my good friends for the taste test (dinner). They have been my guinea pigs for years and are always willing volunteers on experiments and new recipes. A picky wife, a husband that will eat anything and two teenagers. I already know there won't be any of this left to bring home.

  2. This was a great meal. Everyone liked it and I even got to bring some home. There was a lot more in that baking dish than I thought. The recipe is going into the “will fix again” box for sure. The next time I will add more ricotta. In fact, the two lbs. the recipe calls for would really not be too much as far as cheese goes. It would just make a lot.

    This was every bit as good as your pictures made it look. It was well worth the extra time and effort.

  3. This looks absolutely amazing!!! Thanks for sharing such a special family recipe! We have some friends coming to visit us and I was looking for a meal that adults and children would love and this will be a winner!

    One quick question though….did you bake it with tinfoil covering it for all or part of the oven time???
    Thanks!

    1. Hey christa, for baked pastas like this I always like to bake them covered for half the baking time and then uncover them for the second half.

      Good luck!

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