Baked Manicotti with Homemade Ricotta Cheese

I am occasionally asked for my favorite vegetarian recipes.  Unfortunately, there are not too many dishes that come out of my kitchen that are meatless.  They usually include pasta when I do make them.

I knew exactly what I was going to make with the whole milk that I brought home from our On the Road adventure to Southern Swiss Dairy.  Whole milk ricotta for Baked Manicotti.

Remember these girls?

It is incredibly easy to make ricotta cheese at home and and I assure you that once you do, it will be very difficult to buy it at the grocery store again.  If you are a regular reader of Bunkycooks, you might remember that Mr. B will not eat anything that is not homemade once I have made the real thing.  This includes ice cream, pasta, peanut butter, jams, chicken stock and pickles, to name a few.  If you don’t want to have the same situation occur in your home, then I suggest you go and buy the ricotta at the store! 😉

Volià! Homemade ricotta in just minutes!

I used a recipe from Cooks Illustrated, but you could use any number of recipes that are available.  I prefer this one since there was no buttermilk or heavy cream added to the milk.  I wanted to taste the ricotta made just from Southern Swiss Dairy’s milk.  Salt and Serernity used the Cooks Illustrated recipe and included a nice series of photos.

Use your food processor to quickly chop the tomatoes

If you are looking for a relatively quick and easy supper that is meatless or have a craving for some cheesy pasta, this recipe is excellent.  Most everything is made from scratch, it can be prepared ahead of time and then baked when ready for dinner.

You can have homemade sauce in minutes with just a few ingredients

The recipe is slightly modified from Saveur.

Baked Manicotti with Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Ingredients:

For Manicotti:

3 tbsp. unsalted butter

3 cups Angelo's Marinara Sauce (recipe following)

1  8-oz. box dried manicotti shells (about 14)

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 cups whole-milk ricotta (Homemade or use Calabro, which is available at Whole Foods)

1 cup grated parmesan (Use a good Parmigiano-Reggiano)

5 tbsp. chopped curly or flat-leaf parsley

1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg

2 eggs, beaten


For Angelo's Marinara Sauce:

1  28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 bay leaf

1/2 small onion, finely chopped

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. dried thyme

1 tbsp. finely chopped

curly or flat-leaf parsley

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Directions:

For Manicotti:

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.


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, 3 tbsp. chopped parsley, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and eggs and stir to combine.


Spoon some of the filling into both openings of each manicotti shell. (Alternatively, transfer the ricotta mixture to a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag, snip off a bottom corner of the bag, and pipe filling into pasta.) 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.


For Angelo's Marinara Sauce:

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


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.


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.


Makes about 3 cups