Manicotti normally wouldn't really be an impromptu meal, but I had some sauce in the freezer so suddenly it becomes a lot easier and faster to make. And as I've said before, I've been known to get a bee in my bonnet about things and lately the urge to make manicotti started buzzing in my head.
I decided to make spinach/ricotta manicotti. I already had the frozen spinach so all I really needed to buy was ricotta and the manicotti shells themselves. While I waited for the big pot of water to boil, I went ahead and defrosted the spinach in the microwave. Once that is done, make sure you drain it well. I either squeeze it out with my hands or put it in a few layers of paper towels in a ball, then squeeze the ball of spinach between the paper towels. Either way, you want it to not be watery at all. When that is done, put the spinach in a medium sized bowl and add your seasonings.... salt, pepper, red pepper flakes if you want. On this particular day I happen to have a huge bundle of fresh oregano from a friends garden, so I added that to mine.
Then add your one pound of ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and one beaten egg. Stir well.
When the manicotti shells are very al dente, as in about only half cooked, take them out of the water and run under cold water so they stop cooking and they are easier to handle.
Take a 9 x 13 baking dish and put a good layer of sauce down on the bottom.
Coming off my cake decorating class high, I decided to use a pastry bag to fill the manicotti shells. I put quite a bit in the disposable bag and then cut a good sized hole in the tip. The hole needs to be a little bigger than you would normally make for icing a cake since you don't want spinach to get stuck in the bag. And if you don't have pastry bags, disposable or otherwise, you can always use a good sized plastic food storage bag. Just put the filling in, squeeze it to one side of the back then cut a hole in. Easy peasy :)
This made quick work of filling the shells so as each was filled, I lined them up in the pan in one layer. There was room for all of them in the pan.
Cover with more sauce... use more than you think you need. This is why we cooked the shells only half way. The sauce will cook them the rest of the way. Then top with Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 45 minutes at 350. When you remove them from the oven the sauce is soaked in and they are bubble and gooey and oh so yummy!
You can certainly add mozzarella to the top. That will just add even more cheese goodness!
Eat your hearts out!