Baked Manicotti

The latest issue of Saveur features an article on eating in Atlantic City in the 1980’s. The essay made me nostalgic for the east coast, the 80’s and even for Atlantic City. It is funny how we can feel these close connections to places we have never been. There is this mythology surrounding east coast Italian-American food that affects me even though I grew up in the Midwest. The article inspires images of red vinyl booths, dyed hair, plastic coated menus, muscle cars, perfume, checkered tablecloths, red sauce and high heels. These food mythologies add story to the recipes we cook and connect us to the past; we can be a teenager in New jersey, a grandmother in New Orleans, or a hippie in Berkeley.

The article includes several recipes inspired by Angelo’s, an Atlantic City institution serving classic Italian-American cuisine. The recipe that immediately caught my attention was  for baked manicotti. They were outstanding and went well with some cheesy garlic bread and a green salad with vinaigrette—all that was missing was some Frank Sinatra and cheap red wine.

While we’re on the subject of tomatoes (were we?), I want to make sure everyone has seen the article in this month’s Gourmet on the terrible conditions (slavery) surrounding the harvesting of tomatoes in our country. It is pretty heartbreaking stuff and emphasizes how politicized every one of our food choices has become. Whether we want to be or not— we’re involved. More information on how to get involved in the fight for fair food can be found on the Coalition of Immokalee Workers website.

Baked Manicotti (adapted from Saveur)

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 cups Marinara Sauce (recipe below)
  • 1  8-oz. box dried manicotti shells (about 14)
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 cups whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 7 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten

1. Grease a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with 1 tbsp. butter and spread 1⁄2 cup of the marinara sauce across the bottom of the pan. Set aside. Bring a 6-qt. pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the manicotti and cook until just tender, about 8 minutes. Drain manicotti and rinse under cold water; set aside.

2. Heat oven to 450°. Heat remaining butter in a 12″ skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer garlic to a medium bowl along with the ricotta, 1⁄2 cup parmesan, 5 tbsp. chopped parsley, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne, and eggs and stir to combine.

3. Spoon some of the filling into both openings of each manicotti shell.  Repeat with remaining manicotti shells. Transfer stuffed manicotti to prepared baking dish, making 2 rows. Spread the remaining marinara sauce over the manicotti and sprinkle with remaining parmesan. Bake until hot and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining parsley. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

***A note on filling these: Blah, I hate filling manicotti shells. In the past I have avoided the problem by using those flat no-bake lasagna noodles, cooking them to soften them, and rolling the filling inside. It is easy. I wanted to use the classic manicotti shells for this and found that the easiest way to fill them was by piping the ricotta filling into the pasta using a plastic storage bag with a corner snipped off. I suggest you try one of those methods and save yourself the hassle of spooning the filling in.

Marinara Sauce (adapted from Saveur)

  • 1  28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1⁄2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4  teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 Put tomatoes and their liquid into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Set aside.

2 Heat oil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, bay leaf, and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.

3 Add the chopped tomatoes along with the oregano and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly and its flavors come together, about 20 minutes. Stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper.

19 comments to “Baked Manicotti”

  1. Jersey is still filled with the big hair and all those other sterotypes! haha But they do have some good food, I miss it!

  2. Beautiful dish! I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of a pasta roller. Do you think this recipe would adapt well to fresh shells?

    Thank you for highlighting the Gourmet article. I was saddened reading the article and feel a deep injustice is occuring inside our country which needs to be stopped.

  3. MyFrogs: I lived in Jersey for a while and really loved my time there. Such a good state.

    Phoo-D: Yes, I think you could do some great things with this recipe and fresh pasta. Keep me posted on your pasta-rolling adventures.

  4. First of all, gorgeous shots. I want to eat those right now and I’m not even hungry. I appreciate you posting the recipe. I bought some shells over a year ago and can’t find a recipe that appeals to me. Until now.

  5. Had to tell you we made your green rice casserole over the weekend and it got RAVE reviews. It was even better reheated for lunch the second day!

    This recipe looks just as good, may have to make it for our puppy party next weekend as my vegan dish.

  6. Thanks for mentioning both articles as they’re worth reading. And this looks worth eating.

  7. aw, how appropriate… today is one of the very few days of my life where i was highly nostalgic for home–the dirty jerz. i myself whipped up a little red sauce and garlic bread dinner and felt pangs thinking of the best food in the world– doria’s pizza in my home town.
    i will be sure to try this next time this rare warmheartedness pops up!

  8. Every time I look at your new recipes, a little bit of my stomach dies when I have to go to the student center for food. This looks fantastic!

  9. Your blue casserole dish is beautiful! I want one just like that. I also want to make the delicious-ness inside the dish. This comment is turning into Dr. Seuss now.

    Thanks for providing such inspiration!

  10. Yum. I just added a subscription to Saveur to my massive ridiculous collection of magazines, but now I’m excited!

  11. I was down in AC just a few weeks ago, and I have to say I’m a little wistful for some good beach Italian food. Its rough how I go down there these days and literally go to casino after casino (and I don’t even gamble!) and barely even get to smell the beachy air, let alone the authentic Italian cuisine. From what I hear, though, Chef Vola’s is the place to go :-)

  12. I love baked pasta dishes, and all Italian food for that matter. I usually add a pinch of cinnamon to the ricotta mixture, it adds a nice warmth, I definitely recommend trying it out.

  13. I have been craving manicotti for days, what a timely post. Thank you for the rolling recommendation. Filling the shells is also my least favorite part about the dish.

  14. I never make manicotti BECAUSE of the shell-filling process. But, what could be better on a cold night than baked pasta? Thanks for the inspiration.

  15. I love that article! The recipe looks great too:)

  16. just made this. sooo f-ing good. the nutmeg and the garlic sauted in butter makes it!!! care for you branch.

  17. Same “Madelyn from Jerusalem” that commented on your “Jerusalem, again” blog post. I am so excited to make this dish! I had to make a special trip out to a non-kosher delicatessen that sells all kinds of wonderful meats, cheeses, pastas and other items not often found in Jerusalem–but it will be worth it! I even climbed through the snow and debris left from “the worst [snow] storm [in Jerusalem] in decades” to get this manicotti!

    A question: You said to pre-boil the manicotti pasta. But the directions on this De Decco manicotti (the only kind available) says, “for perfect cooking: raw in the oven with the sauce, about 20 minutes.” What do you think I should do? My Italian husband can’t stand mushy noodles (who can, really?) or even more than al dente. What do you suggest I do?

  18. correction *De Cecco

  19. Hi Madelyn! I’ve been hearing about your snow, it sounds wild. I honestly don’t know what to do about those shells. I’ve never tried them before. Mine definitely required a boil before being baked, but if yours are instructing you to use them “raw”, maybe you should listen? Soggy noodles are not great. Let us know what happens!

What do you think?