1. Roasted vegetables! The best kind of vegetables! I like cheese manicotti, but it’s never been a favorite of mine because the filling is a little bit boring. Cheese, cheese, and more cheese. Roasted vegetables make this baked manicotti recipe more flavorful, more filling, and they up the nutrition a little bit too. Even Chris, who hates ricotta, loves this recipe.
2. It can be made a day in advance. I’m a fan of any recipe that will let me assemble everything the night before and then pop it in the oven to cook the next evening. Sometimes I know I’m going to have an especially busy day and won’t have time to make dinner–I love that we can still have a filling homemade meal and don’t have to rely on takeout or frozen pizzas. (I’m not hating on frozen pizzas, of course, but if I eat 1/3 like the package always says, I’m hungry 20 minutes later. Also, dividing your pizza into thirds just isn’t right. It’s not!)
3. It can be frozen too. Yes! You have 3 options with this recipe! Assemble and bake right away, assemble, refrigerate and bake the next day, or assemble and freeze. And the best news is that it doesn’t just freeze (because technically, you can freeze anything, right?), but it freezes well. When I was testing this recipe out, we had it all 3 ways and it was nearly impossible to tell the batch I baked right away from the frozen or refrigerated batch.
Roasted vegetables add flavor and a nutritional boost to traditional baked cheese manicotti. This recipe is perfect to make in advance--either refrigerate it for a day or freeze it for up to a month!
- 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
- 1 small (or baby) eggplant, diced
- 1 small zucchini, diced
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- salt + pepper to taste
- 1 package manicotti shells (14 shells)
- 15 oz. ricotta cheese (I use low fat or fat-free)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 c. parmesan cheese, divided
- 1 c. part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
- 2 c. jarred marinara sauce
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Combine mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl; toss to coat. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time, or until vegetables are softened and just starting to brown. Set aside.
- If you're planning on eating the manicotti the same day you make it, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Otherwise, turn oven off.
- Cook manicotti shells al dente, according to package instructions. Drain and run under cold water until shells are cool enough to handle.
- While shells are boiling, in another large bowl, stir together ricotta, egg, salt and pepper. Fold in roasted vegetables, 1/4 c. parmesan cheese, and 1/2 c. mozzarella cheese.
- Spread 1 cup of marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 casserole dish (use a freezer-to-oven safe dish if freezing). Using a small spoon, carefully fill each manicotti shell with cheese and vegetable mixture. Place finished manicotti in baking dish. Once all manicotti are filled, top with remaining sauce and cheese.
- Cover casserole dish with foil. Bake manicotti at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then remove foil and bake 10 minutes more.
- Cover casserole dish with foil and refrigerate for up to one day. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until heated through, then remove foil and bake 10 minutes more.
- Place plastic wrap directly on top of manicotti to minimize freezer burn, then cover casserole dish with lid. Freeze for up to 1 month. To bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees; remove lid and plastic wrap and cover with foil. Heat for an hour, then remove foil and bake about 15 minutes more or until manicotti is heated through and cheese has melted.
If you don't have a freezer-to-oven baking dish, you can use a disposable aluminum baking tray instead.