Kicked-It-Up Manicotti or Lasagna

Almonds and Manicotti 038

 My lasagna was just so-so until I adapted this recipe from an old The Best of America’s Test Kitchen magazine. This recipe easy and convenient. The sauce and cheese filling can be made the day before and easily assembled the next day.  It freezes well either ready-to-bake or already baked. I have served it for birthday dinners and other special events. It even worked to slip it in the oven before Mass and come home to piping hot manicotti on Christmas day. It was a nice change from cheesy hash browns and ham!

Almonds and Manicotti 028

Kick-It-Up Manicotti or Lasagna
Serves 16

  1. 16 no-boil lasagna noodles (8 ounce package)
  2. 1 medium onion, chopped
  3. 6 ounces turkey pepperoni
  4. 1 pound 90% lean ground beef
  5. 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  6. 2 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  7. ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  8. ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
  9. ¼ teaspoon pepper
  10. 2 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
  11. 24 ounces low fat ricotta cheese
  12. 16 ounces shredded mozzarella and provolone cheese
  13. 1 egg, slightly beaten
  14. ½ teaspoon pepper
  15. 1 tablespoon dried basil or parsley flakes or ¼ cup fresh basil or parsley, chopped
  1. Using a food processor, chop onion .
  2. Add pepperoni and chop until coarsely ground.
  3. Then add ground beef and pulse until combined.
  4. Cook meat mixture in a saucepan over medium heat until no longer pink.
  5. Drain grease . Reserve 1 cup cooked meat mixture.
  6. Add tomato paste, garlic, and seasonings. Cook for about one minute.
  7. Stir in tomatoes and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  8. Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.
  9. Combine ricotta, 3 cups cheese (reserve 1 cup), egg and seasonings.
  10. Add reserved meat mixture to cheese mixture and combine.
  11. Fill 9”x13” baking pan with boiling water and soak noodles three at a time until pliable (about 1-2 minutes). Remove from pan and set aside in single layer on a kitchen towel. Do not stack or they will stick together. Dry baking pan and coat with cooking spray.
  12. Spread ½ sauce on bottom of pan. Cut noodles in half, spread filling across the bottom of each noodle and roll into a tube. Set roll cut-side down in pan. Do the same for all 32 manicotti rolls.
  13. Top with remaining sauce.
  14. Cover with foil and bake for about 50 minutes or until bubbly.
  15. Remove foil and top with reserved shredded cheese and bake until cheese is melted–about 10 minutes.
  16. Cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.
For lasagna
  1. Spread ¼ sauce on bottom of pan. Layer ⅓ noodles, ⅓ cheese mixture and ¼ sauce for a total of 3 layers of each ending with sauce.
  1. If you freeze it to cook later, you will need to thaw it in the refrigerator and make sure it’s fully thawed before baking. If you take it out of the refrigerator rather than baking it right after assembly, it will take longer to cook so allow extra time.
  2. Nutrition per serving: 319 calories, 15 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 22 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, 472 mg sodium, 374 mg calcium, 3 mg iron, 1126 IU vitamin A.
Taste of Zest

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