Baked Manicotti with Spinach

This Baked Manicotti with Spinach features a tasty ricotta filling…
it’s the perfect comfort food for a chilly night!

This Baked Manicotti with Spinach features a tasty ricotta filling...it's the perfect comfort food for a chilly late Fall night!What is your all-time favorite comfort food?  Just the term ‘comfort food’ evokes so many different thoughts for me.  I guess comfort food depends on the time of day as well as time of the year, right?  Mornings call for blueberry muffins and cinnamon rolls.  Evenings call for creamy mac & cheese and delicious burgers.  The Fall calls for anything and everything apple.  Winter calls for hot soups that warm you from the inside out.  

But Italian food.  Italian food is a year-round comfort food around here.  Heck, I think it might even qualify as an all-day comfort food, too.  If someone offered me this Baked Manicotti with Spinach for breakfast, I would gladly accept!

This Baked Manicotti with Spinach features a tasty ricotta filling...it's the perfect comfort food for a chilly late Fall night!One of the best things about Italian cuisine is just how easy it is to make.  I once heard a chef say that since Italian dishes often have only a few ingredients, therefore you should always buy the best quality ingredients that your budget will allow.  #GoodAdvice.

While I was making this Baked Manicotti with Spinach, I got to thinking about other little tips and tricks that I use frequently in the kitchen.  For instance, this recipe calls for some fresh basil.  We always plant basil in our garden which is great for summer recipes.  However, in the winter, I have to resort to buying fresh basil.

But here’s a good tip for fresh herbs: skip the produce section at the grocery store.  Instead, go to the garden center and pick up a pot of the herb in question.  Use what you need, then plant the rest in a pot outside of your backdoor.  The cost is usually about the same…or even cheaper.  (Of course, this tip only really works in the spring and summer.  But still.  I’ve done this more times than I can count.)

This Baked Manicotti with Spinach features a tasty ricotta filling...it's the perfect comfort food for a chilly late Fall night!I do love spending time in the kitchen, but I still like to cut corners when I can.  One of my favorite little time-saving tricks?  Keep a jar of minced garlic in the fridge.  ~1/2 tsp of minced garlic equals a clove of fresh garlic.  I find that fresh garlic is a pain to chop.  So I just save the time and use the pre-minced stuff in the jar.

Speaking of ingredients, let’s talk ricotta.  My wife will tell you that one of my pet peeves is a pasta dish with a bunch of water in the bottom of the plate.  This often comes from just not letting the pasta drain enough, but it can come from the ricotta, too.  Recipes never tell you to drain ricotta before using it, but it’s such a handy little trick.  I just put a piece of cheesecloth in a colander.  Then I put the ricotta in the colander and place the whole thing over a bowl in the fridge.  Come back several hours later, and you’ll see that the ricotta has drained out a good amount of liquid.  Liquid that otherwise would have ended up at the bottom of my plate.

This Baked Manicotti with Spinach features a tasty ricotta filling...it's the perfect comfort food for a chilly late Fall night!Oh, and one more tip and then I’ll zip it up…at least for today.  Use a piping bag fitted with a large round tip to fill the manicotti.  Yup, the same type of piping bag and tip that you might use for cupcakes.  Or these Lemon Blueberry Almond Bites.  Except fill it with a ricotti mixture instead of lemon filling.  I’ve tried filling manicotti with a spoon.  Talk about a mess!  Now I just pull out the pastry bag instead.

What are some of your favorite time-saving tips for the kitchen?

What is your favorite comfort food?

This Baked Manicotti with Spinach features a tasty ricotta filling...it's the perfect comfort food for a chilly late Fall night!

Baked Manicotti with Spinach

This Baked Manicotti with Spinach features a tasty ricotta filling…it’s the perfect comfort food for a chilly night!
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 644kcal

Ingredients

  • 8 manicotti pasta shells
  • 1 medium white onion diced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 10-oz package frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 large egg lightly beaten
  • 1 15-oz container ricotta cheese (~1¾ cups)
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese shredded and divided
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese grated
  • 1 tsp Italian seasonings
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 24-oz jar marinara sauce
  • Fresh basil chopped {Optional}

Instructions

  • Drain the ricotta for several hours before making this recipe. (Tip: Just put a piece of cheesecloth in a colander. Put the ricotta on top and let it drain for a few hours.)
  • Cook manicotti according to package instructions. Once cooked, rinse with cold water and set aside on a sheet pan to drain.
  • Meanwhile, place the diced onions and olive oil in a large saute pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 4-5 minutes, or until onions begin to turn soft. Add garlic and cook for 2-3 more minutes, stirring often.
  • Squeeze as much liquid out of the spinach as possible. Chop spinach finely.
  • Transfer onions and garlic into a large bowl. Add egg, ricotta, 1 cup of mozzarella, Parmesan, Italian seasonings, salt, pepper and spinach to the bowl. Stir until well mixed.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Spread 1 cup of marinara sauce across bottom of 9”x13” baking dish.
  • Using a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip (or a sandwich bag with one corner snipped off), fill the cooked manicotti with this mixture. Place filled manicotti in baking dish.
  • Pour remaining marinara sauce over manicotti.
  • Cover and bake for 25 minutes at 350°F.
  • Uncover and sprinkle remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese on top. Bake (uncovered) for 5-10 more minutes, or until cheese has fully melted.
  • {Optional} Sprinkle with freshly chopped basil before serving.

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20 Comments

  1. Totally agree on your list of comfort food examples. But it seems you have missed one item called lavender. I know your love for lavender, so it must be just a mistake:) What do you think of lavender hot chocolate for instance? But if seriously, I do love baked pasta recipes, and which is why this gooey delicious manicotti always are a good idea (And they also always make me hungry)

  2. Oh comfort food! I totally agree with you on Italian, I mean, pasta swimming in delicious fresh tomatoes and herbs, I mean meat or no meat, is just comforting all the way. I love your manicotti recipe and your pictures are amazing!

    1. I’m with ya, Gaila! I could eat Italian every single night…meat or no meat. In fact, I think I could eat pasta for breakfast, too! Thank you so much! 🙂

    1. I’m right there with ya, Johlene! I spy 2 pasta dishes out of your top 4…pasta is seriously one of the best comfort foods ever, right?? 🙂

  3. David, Lil Shashi and I were just talking about Italian food last night – amidst the tirade of cookies – she said that all she wanted was something Italian with cheesy tomato sauce – and boink – you posted this! Dude – I think you must be psychic! Though – I don’t see what’s wrong with cookies ALL day – do you??? 🙂
    I found out the hard way about the water content of ricotta – and I like your idea to just let it sit in a cheesecloth-lined colander in the fridge – so much easier than my wrestling method! I love using cilantro and parsley and when I but them and place them in the fridge, they always seem to wilt so I’ve started putting them in a cup filled with water and as long as I keep filling the water, they stay perky! Though your idea to buy a plant is such a brilliant one!

    1. Hahaha…that’s what I’m here for, Shashi! I must have telepathically heard lil Shashi’s wishes. (And for the record, there is nothing wrong with cookies all day…haha!)

      It’s incredible how much liquid is in ricotta…and yes, it can really mess with a recipe as we’ve been learned the hard way. It takes a bit of forethought, but just letting the ricotta drain out by itself is the easiest method we’ve found. And yes to the cilantro/parsley…we do the same thing. In fact, I used to put that cup of water with herbs in the fridge, but it would still wilt. So now I’ve started leaving it on the counter, and it seems to be working better. I’ve got a huge bunch of cilantro up on my counter now, and it’s been there for days!

  4. For me, it’s no-bakes. I love them the way a baby loves a pacifier. But your spinach creation would certainly do quite nicely! Pasta and cheese is so comforting.

  5. Man, cinnamon rolls are THE comfort food for me.
    I love ’em soooo much. That’s why I never ever make them – otherwise I end up eating the whole batch by myself in one sitting [pls don’t judge me!]
    But stuffed pasta with marinara sauce and cheese could do too. Do you have some leftovers by any chance?
    #WolfpackBinge

    1. I would never have guessed cinnamon rolls would have been your downfall, Mike! Kale chips, cauliflower pizza or roasted veggies yes. But not cinnamon rolls! But I’m with ya…cinnamon rolls are a dangerous thing to keep around our kitchen, too. Hope the holidays are treating you well so far, my friend!

  6. Hi David! You read my mind – I picked up all these ingredients at the store today before reading your post! Except the pasta which is already in my pantry. And I do eat stuff like this for breakfast! 🙂

    1. Hahaha…we’re just on the same page then, Dorothy! This is seriously one of my favorite comfort food meals. I could eat it 3x a day and still not get tired of it! 🙂

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