Super cheesy manicotti

This was an improvised recipe after I couldn’t find one online that was exactly the picture I had in my head. I’ve actually never made stuffed pasta shells before, so I wanted my first attempt to be simple, cheesy, and comforting enough to make me forget that any temperature outside above zero degrees is warm these days.

I had to give myself a little pat on the back for this one because it came out just exactly as I’d hoped. If you put enough cheese in anything, it’s bound to be good, right?

Here’s the recipe. You should have enough filling to generously stuff 14 manicotti shells. I’m not sure how many shells of other shapes it would take, but I’d like to try it another time with smaller pasta.

Super cheesy manicotti

1 package manicotti shells (about 14)
2 15-ounce tubs of part-skim ricotta cheese
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce
1 generous teaspoon black pepper
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Boil the water for your shells and cook them for 7 minutes. This should be enough to make them soft enough to handle but a little al dente so they don’t tear.

Drain the shells and let them cool for a few minutes. While you’re doing that you can mix up the filling in a bowl. Combine the ricotta cheese with 1/2 cup of parmesan and the black pepper. The better quality cheese you use, the better the recipe will be. Nothing out of a green jar!

In the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish, spread about a cup of marinara sauce. I used my absolute favorite, from a local pizza place. It is so, so good.

Then start stuffing the shells. I just used a spoon, stuffing one half, then the other. But a pastry bag would probably be a lot less messy.

Once all the shells are done (I think I ended up tossing one because the dish was full and the shell had started to dry out), cover them with the rest of the marinara sauce. Then sprinkle on the mozzarella and the rest of the parmesan cheese.

Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Try not to eat as many as I did.