Cooking for a Crowd,  Italian,  Pasta,  Recipes

Baked Manicotti

I have been making this recipe for years – it’s one of my top 5 most requested client meals – but¬†ironically it’s never been a meal I made for my kids because they one, don’t like marinara sauce smothered over everything (meatballs should have a bare dripping of sauce, that’s it) and two, casseroles, or any dish where the food is all mixed together is like torturing them. I have to face facts and accept that my kids, who are 13, 10 and 7, are not changing anytime soon. So, imagine my surprise, that along with blending our families, I get to cook for older kids that LOVE meals like this.

Baked Manicotti

If you are cooking for a big crowd, and trying to accommodate different tastes, I recommend a tray of manicotti and some meatballs for those picky eaters.

Roasted Meatballs

Baked Manicotti
Author: Kate Wagner
Serves: 10-14
The inspiration for this recipe comes from Cook’s Illustrated [i]The Best Make-Ahead Recipe[/i]. I highly encourage you to buy any of their books, I love the background information on the science of food (a little nerdy I know) and the recipes are impeccable and always turn out perfectly. After years of tweaking, this recipe is firmly my own, but I never forget where I started. Happy cooking!
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 4 tsp Minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp Dried oregano
  • 1 (28 oz) can + 1 (14 oz) Petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 (28 oz) can + 1 (14 oz) Crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 (24 oz) container Whole milk ricotta
  • 2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated (I use Kraft or the store brand)
  • 1 pkge Mozzarella or Italian blend shredded cheese, plus another 1/2 pkge of cheese for topping
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 20 No-boil flat noodles (Barilla makes great ones)
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Once oil is shimmering, add garlic and oregano and stir, “blooming” the spices for 3-5 minutes. Turn heat to low and mix in all four cans of tomatoes. Stir to combine and let the tomato mixture simmer for 10-15 minutes. Take saucepan off heat, and transfer mixture to a medium sized bowl to allow the mixture to cool more quickly.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl add eggs, and lightly beat. Add ricotta, Parmesan, shredded cheese, Italian seasoning and Kosher salt and mix to combine. Set aside.
  3. Here comes the tricky part, but stay with me. Once you do this one or two times, it becomes so rote and simple to do AND makes all the difference in making amazing manicotti.
  4. Fill a 2 cup Pyrex with water and microwave to boiling, 6-8 minutes. Pour water into 13 inch x 9 inch baking dish. Turning the facet to high, add another 2 cups of hot tap water to the baking dish.
  5. Slowly add the noodles, 10 at a time. You will repeat the water step for the next 10 noodles (we do not want them to get mushy).
  6. Let the noodles soak for 5-8 minutes, until they are pliable. Remove the noodles from the baking dish and place one by one on a clean tea towel.
  7. Prepare 2 baking trays (I use the aluminum ones from Sam’s Club that are roughly 10 x 13). Spray with canola spray and cover the bottom of each baking dish with 1 cup of the tomato mixture.
  8. Spoon 1/4 cup of the ricotta mixture on each lasagna noodle, starting at the bottom and rolling up tightly. Place each rolled noodle in the prepared baking tray. You should have 2 rows of 5 noodles each.
  9. Cover the tray of noodles with 2 cups of sauce, making sure to cover the noodles completely.
  10. Discard the warm water and start again to assemble the second tray.
  11. Once the second tray is assembled, sprinkle 1/4 of a pkge of shredded cheese over each of the two trays of manicotti.
  12. Cooking now: Preheat oven to 350, and cover both dishes tightly with aluminum foil sprayed with canola spray (to prevent food from sticking). Bake until sauce is bubbly, 20-25 minutes. Remove cover and continue cooking, 10-15 minutes longer. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.
  13. Cooking later: Wrap the dishes tightly with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Refrigerate up to 5 days or freeze for up to 2 months. If frozen, thaw completely in the refrigerator overnight. Discard plastic wrap and follow all of the instructions listed above.


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