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Tom’s Amazing Spinach Manicotti with Hearty Meat Sauce

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So, my hubby says to me, completely out of the blue, “I want to cook something!” 😀 I reply in the calmest voice I can muster on-spot, “Oh, okay. What would you like to make?” (Gently smiling and trying not to show a panic-face.) After a short discussion of what he knew how to make, I decided it might be best if I simply got out a few of my cookbooks, easy ones to prevent any unneeded stress or disasters in the kitchen, and let him thumb through and choose something, as he said he likes to follow a recipe. Solid plan. 😉 

In an old Taste of Home cookbook, “Best of the First Ten Years”, (yes, I am in there!), he decided he wanted to make the manicotti on page 98. The recipe actually called for making homemade crepes to be filled instead of shells, but we decided that that might be a project all on it’s own and to keep this more traditional (and easier!)

We already had manicotti shells, thanks to Barilla, (as well as several jars of their pasta sauce!), so we were already part way there as far as groceries were concerned, and I thought it a great pick for supper! After reading the ingredient list, we decided that we’d just not follow the recipe and just do our own thing. I liked his idea of adding shallots and garlic to the cheese filling, he liked my idea of adding spinach, and we were on a roll to create a wonderful pan of delicious manicotti all on our own! 😉 

After a bit of a rocky start, we found our groove and really had a blast! 😀 I talked him into filling the shells without cooking them first, as filling wobbly shells is NOT a fun experience, and I’ve since learned years ago that you really don’t have to cook them first, and this really made it MUCH easier and fun for him to fill. 😉 


tom filling manicotti


I loved playing sous chef and “directing traffic”, and my hubby really did a great job of filling the shells, sautéing, and cooking! 😀    


manicotti with sauce


Though most manicotti dishes don’t have meat in them, the hubs definitely wanted it to be much more hearty and more “guy-style”, so we went with a nice sweet Italian sausage added to the sauce to go on top! Good choice! 😉 


manicotti done


It got a heavy dose of mozzarella plus “a little extra on top” 😉 , and it was absolutely gorgeous! 


manicotti ready


The house smelled wonderful! 😀 (And we didn’t even kill each other!) Success! 😉  


manicotti piece cut out


So if you’re wanting to make an over-the-top manicotti that’s simple enough for a beginner to make with excellent flavors, fabulous ingredients, and hearty enough for the guys on Football Sunday, this is definitely the recipe to save! No need to look any further! 😉 These were the bomb!  

They also go a surprisingly long way! Two per person per serving is PLENTY. They’re a little deceiving in that they’re very filling, and served with a salad and bread, you’re stuffed!  PERFECT comfort food for this time of year! 😀

So enjoy all, and keep this one in mind to make soon!! It was truly delizioso! Ciao! 😀 ~Kelly





Tom's Amazing Spinach Manicotti with Hearty Meat Sauce
Yield: 7 servings

Tom's Amazing Spinach Manicotti with Hearty Meat Sauce

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes


  • 1 Tbl. EVOO
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 extra-large egg, beaten
  • 3 cups quality ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely grated pecorino romano cheese
  • half of a 10 oz. box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry, (save rest for another use)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 14 manicotti shells, uncooked
  • 1 (24 oz.) jar Barilla Traditional Pasta Sauce, divided
  • 2 Tbl. water
  • 1 lb. Johnsonville Sweet Italian Sausage
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) Barilla Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce
  • 2 more Tbl. water
  • 1 (16 oz.) bag Sargento Off the Block Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • 2-3 Tbl. finely grated pecorino romano cheese
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh dried oregano


  • Spray a 13x9 pan lightly and pour in half of a jar of the traditional pasta sauce. Stir in 2 Tbl. water and spread across bottom of pan evenly.
  • In small sauté pan, heat EVOO and sauté shallots and garlic for 2 minutes, remove from heat to cool down.
  • In large bowl, beat egg well. Stir in ricotta, 1/2 cup romano cheese, half of a box of squeezed dry chopped spinach, salt, pepper, and sautéed shallots and garlic. Stir until well mixed.
  • Place filling into a pastry bag and fill (*uncooked) shells full. Place into baking pan with sauce.
  • In medium frying pan, sauté sausage, breaking up as you go, until done. Drain grease. Add second half of jar of traditional pasta sauce. Stir until sausage is coated.
  • Spoon over filled manicotti shells.
  • Drizzle one cup of the roasted garlic sauce over to cover any empty spots.
  • Cover dish tightly with foil. Pop into preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 40 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and remove foil. Cover top evenly with shredded mozzarella.
  • Evenly sprinkle with more romano cheese to taste. Lightly and evenly sprinkle top with garlic salt and fresh dried oregano.
  • Pop back into oven, uncovered, and continue baking for another 25 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and let rest for at least 15-20 minutes before serving.
  • Serve with homemade garlic cheesy bread and a nice tossed salad.


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