Tag Archives: homemade marinara sauce

Spinach & Cheese Manicotti with Homemade Marinara Sauce

When I was pregnant, I prepared and froze meals to heat up after the baby was born.  The baby is now a sprouting 9 month old and I still prepare frozen meals.  It’s a great way to ensure that there’s always food in the house without worrying about spoilage.  My favorite freezer meals are of the Italian-inspired variety.  While, I usually always make lasagna, I wanted to change things up and try manicotti.

And, while I usually use store-bought marinara, I was all out and made my own.  With simple ingredients cooked slowly, the resulting sauce was astounding.  Full of flavor and fresh unlike some jarred sauces you may run across.  I can’t wait to try more variations for different types of pasta dishes!

Spinach & Cheese Manicotti

adapted from Allrecipes.com


  • 1 (8 oz) package of manicotti shells
  • 1 (15 oz) container of ricotta cheese
  • 1 (10 oz) package of frozen spinach, thawed, drained, squeezed dry and chopped
  • 1/2 cup onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp parsley, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 big pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded (divided)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (divided)
  • 4 cups marinara sauce, recipe below


  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together ricotta, spinach, onion, garlic, egg, parsley, pepper, salt, garlic powder, and nutmeg until well combined.  Stir in 1 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
  3. In a 9 x 13 baking dish, spread 1 cup of marinara sauce.  Spoon the filling into a large plastic or piping bag.  Snip the corner and squeeze the filling into the uncooked manicotti shells.
  4. Place each filled shell into the marinara sauce.  Fill up the remaining shells and lay them over the marinara in a single layer.
  5. Cover the pasta with the remaining marinara.  Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese over the pasta dish.  (If you want to make a freezer meal, stop here and cover for freezing.)
  6. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove the foil and cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Marinara Sauce

barely adapted from Giada De Laurentiis


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 (32 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 dried bay leaves


  1. In a large casserole pot, heat the oil over a medium-high heat.
  2. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of each salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
  4. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour.
  6. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste.





Filed under Italian, Pasta, Sauces, Vegetarian