Traditionally, mom would always serve manicotti as the first course on Easter Sunday, followed by 10 other dishes as the main course. But, ever since a Costco opened up in our parents neighborhood, (and I'm taking about years ago) my mom would buy them already made. Throw them into a baking dish, add sauce and cheese on top and bake. Back then, my parents were so obsessed over Costco, they would shop there weekly. They would constantly tell us how they much money they saved!
And we'd rolled our eyes, and say, Ok, we get it, yeah - we know - you go broke to save money! Haha...
With a little planning in advance, you can make this casserole of eggplant manicotti very easily.
First, you will need 2 cups of tomato sauce (marinara sauce is best to use), ricotta cheese, fresh basil, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and shredded mozzarella. Good quality ingredients is what makes this dish so amazing! You will taste the freshness of each ingredient as the flavors will burst in your mouth with every bite. The dreamy creamy ricotta cheese melted, nestled inside of tender eggplant make this dish so irresistible, you won't miss the crepes (or pasta), for sure!
Best of all, eggplant "manicotti" are so light, you'll have plenty of room to enjoy the rest of your Easter dinner.
My family now believes it's the BEST "manicotti" casserole they have ever had! Who are they kidding, ... it's the only one they ever had! ...Enjoy!
Try this recipe! Let us know how it turns out. Have a great Tuesday!
Best Eggplant "Manicotti" Casserole
- 2 large eggplants, (about 8 or 9-inches long and 5-inches in diameter)
- 1 + 1/4 cups of ricotta cheese, (such as Polly O, or Galbani)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese -divided
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
- 2 cups Mom's Quick Marinara Sauce - divided
- 3/4 cup shredded whole milk (or reduced fat) mozzarella cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil - divided
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Using a large, sharp knife, slightly square off the tops and slightly the bottom of each eggplant. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into 8 to 10 slices that are about 1/4-inch thick. Don't worry if they are not the exact size or thickness. When they bake, no one will notice any difference.
Then lay the eggplant slices on the prepared baking sheets. You can overlap them slightly.
Season with some salt and black pepper to taste.
3. BAKE eggplants in oven for about 10 minutes, remove and lightly drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over each baking sheet. Return them back to the oven to continue roasting for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the eggplant is golden and tender. Remove and set aside to cool slightly.
4. REDUCE oven to 350 degrees. While the eggplant is cooling down, prepare the ricotta filling.
Combine and blend the ricotta with 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, fresh basil and dried parsley. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Spread 1 cup of the marinara sauce on the bottom of an 9 x 6-inch baking dish. Set aside.
6. Lay the roasted eggplant slices on a work surface, two at a time. Spoon about 1 tablespoon (a good dollop) of the ricotta mixture onto an end of the eggplant slice and roll it up.
Place each eggplant "manicotti," seam side down, in the baking dish, side by side and in two rows ( if you can). Place as many as you can into the baking dish. Spoon the remaining marinara sauce over the eggplant evenly. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese on top, then with shredded mozzarella.
7. BAKE (at 350 degrees) for 15 to 18 minutes, until the cheese is heated through, bubbly and golden on top. Remove and set it aside for 2 minutes. Serve immediately.
Serves: 2 Eggplant "Manicotti" per person (yields: 5 to 6 servings)
Recipe adapted from Rocco Dispirito
Cooks Notes: When slicing the eggplant, don't worry if they're not exactly 1/4-inch thick, you may have extra eggplant slices, and that's Ok, since some slices may get charred if too thin and cannot be rolled into manicotti, which is the reason why I use 2 eggplants. Make two rows of the "manicotti" in the baking dish, this will make it easier for serving. Also, you can prepare this casserole the night before (do not bake it), cover with foil wrap and chill over night. Then take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes,or more (to warm up to room temperature) before baking, then bake it uncovered.