Storified by Arya McLean· Wed, Apr 10 2013 17:42:36
Cooked manicotti shells are stuffed with four kinds of cheese including ricotta, cottage, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese and topped with a sumptuous sauce made of ground beef, butter, olive oil, garlic, onions, tomato paste, parsley, basil, and oregano, and baked in the oven to create an unforgettable and absolutely delicious Italian dish in this pleasantly simple gourmet cooking recipe.
Manicotti are very large pasta shells that need to be boiled in water with some salt and olive oil before that are stuffed with the fillings. They are usually rigged so that the pasta sauce readily adheres to their surface. They are similar to cannelloni, in the sense that both are made from rolled pasta. Traditionally, manicotti is stuffed with ricotta cheese combined with spinach and ground meat and topped with Italian white béchamel or red sauce or both. This version is especially favorable for cheese lovers and makes a divine appetizer or main meal. It can be served with crusty bread or a side of salad greens.
This is also an ideal party food for serving to family, friends, and guests because it can be prepared ahead of time, stored in the fridge, and popped in the oven anytime you are ready to serve. You also don’t need to worry about leftovers as the flavors actually get better and develop after a day or two. This is a dish that almost anyone will love. A fancier alternative to lasagna, manicotti makes a beautiful presentation. Serve it at your next wine and cheese party with a bottle of Chianti, Zinfandel or Sangiovese for a delightful and unforgettable time.
For this recipe, it is better to use dried herbs, particularly dried basil and dried parsley for a subtler flavor that will not overpower the dish. Of course you can use fresh herbs if you want a livelier and robust herby flavor.