I’ve loved manicotti since I was a little kid, but I HATE, HATE, HATE to make it. Individually stuffing all those shells drove me crazy, especially after a long day on the homeschool front. By dinnertime I’m tired, and I want dinner to be quick and easy without resorting to fast food.
Several years ago I decided I was done stuffing manicotti and started making it this cheater way. It’s not exactly the same, but it has all the same flavors without all the insane fuss. The trick? String cheese. Instead of making a fancy schmancy filling, you just fill up the noodles with string cheese. When it bakes it all becomes ooey, gooey, cheesy goodness. And the real flavor comes from putting the extra good stuff in the sauce that it bakes in. Easy peasy.
- manicotti noodles
- string cheese
- pasta sauce/tomato sauce
- your favorite Italian herbs and spices (garlic and oregano are mine, but an Italian seasoning mix will do just fine)
- cooked and crumbled Italian sausage
- 1 small carton ricotta cheese
- grated mozzarella cheese
Here’s what you do:
You just boil water and soften your noodles according to the directions on the package. Because I bake it afterwards, I definitely keep the noodles on the al dente side. Don’t cook them too long or they are hard to work with. Firm, but not crunchy is what I aim for.
While that is boiling, combine the sauce, herbs and spices to taste, cooked sausage, and ricotta cheese in a bowl. You don’t need to heat them. They’ll get plenty hot in the oven. Spread a little bit of this mixture on the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Not much, just enough to make a layer so your noodles won’t stick to the pan later.
Once your noodles are cooked, drain them well and let them cool for just a few minutes. When you can handle them without getting burned, just slip a piece of string cheese inside each one and lay them in your 9×13 pan.
When they are all filled with string cheese, top them with the rest of your sauce. Sprinkle them with mozzarella, because you can never have too much cheese.
Then bake it for 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees, or until it is warm through and the cheese is all melty.
YUM. That’s a version of manicotti even a tired and busy homeschool mama can handle! And it’s always followed up by happy vibes from all my little people at the dinner table!
Oh, and don’t forget to check out some of our other yummy recipes from our recipes page.
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