Fancy Recipe: Seafood-Stuffed Manicotti with Cream Cheese Marinara

14 Apr

 For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

Seafood-stuffed manicotti in creamy marinara sauce.
So fancy.

This scrumptious meal is a great substitute for dining out on celebratory occasions or “date night,” with the added bonus that there’s often leftovers to reheat the next day!

Jamie (my three-year-old son) helped with portions of today’s recipe post. He LOVES stirring things, and brought his little milk stool over to the counter while I was working on the filling and made sad faces at me until I let him climb up on it and help me. 🙂

For this recipe, you’ll need about 12 ounces of small (or chopped), thawed seafood. I used a bag of bay scallops I scored for dirt cheap before Lent ended, but you can just as easily make this out of shrimp, tilapia, imitation crabmeat–whatever’s on sale.

Saute seafood with butter.

Saute seafood with butter.

Warm a skillet over MEDIUM burner heat. Melt 2 tablespoons butter/margarine (cheap tub margarine is fine!) and toss in thawed (drained!) seafood.

Let seafood cool over paper towels.

Let seafood cool over paper towels.

Sprinkle seafood liberally with garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Simmer about 4 minutes,stirring often, until fish is opaque in color. Remove from heat and immediately transfer onto paper towel lined plate to absorb grease. If desired, squeeze lemon juice over the cooked seafood before sticking it in the fridge to chill quickly.

Ricotta (but cottage cheese will work just fine).

Ricotta (but cottage cheese will work just fine).

While fish is cooling, empty a 15-ounce carton of ricotta (or cottage!) cheese into a large mixing bowl. Add 4 ounces (about 1/2 cup) cream cheese and 1 cup shredded mozzarella.

Jamie helping stir.

If your arm tires, recruit a local superhero to finish the job for you.

Break an egg over the cheese and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon oregano, and 1 teaspoon salt (optional). Stir well.

By this time, the seafood should be cooled off. Add it to the cheese mixture and stir again. Set aside.

Prepared marinara.

Prepared marinara.

At this point, you want to both preheat your oven to 375 degrees AND bring a pot of water (with 1 tablespoon oil) to a rolling boil over HIGH heat.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, mix 1-1/2 cups prepared marinara sauce (any variety) with another 4 ounces cream cheese. Heat over LOW burner heat, stirring occasionally.

Once water is boiling, reduce heat and add 12-ounce package (about 14 pieces) manicotti tube pasta.

manicotti

Don't have manicotti? Cut cooked lasagna noodles in half length-wise & roll them around filling mixture! (Technically, you're then making "cannelloni," but who's checking?)

Chef’s Note: If you’re shopping at a discount grocery store where manicotti pasta is unavailable, you can always buy regular lasagna noodles, cook them, cut them to half-length, and roll them around the filling mixture.

Now, technically, if you’re rolling the noodle around the filling, then it changes from being manicotti to being canneloni, but hey–if someone feels cocky enough to question your authenticity, I heartily recommend a third Italian phrase:

Bacio il mio culo!

Seafood & cheese mixture.

Seafood & cheese mixture.

Because you only want the pasta to cook to almost-al-dente, keep a close eye on the pot and don’t let it boil past seven or eight minutes at the most. Stir often to avoid tubes getting stuck together.

When pasta is ready, immediately drain hot water and replace with cold (faucet) water over the manicotti. Add another teaspoon of oil if necessary to prevent them sticking together.

Spray a 9″ x 13″ pan and give filling mixture a good quick stir. To make filling pre-formed manicotti tubes easy on yourself and avoid breaking/tearing cooked pasta, try this simple trick:

my manicotti trick

There's a trick to filling perfect manicotti. Here it is!

Take a gallon-sized freezer bag or a plastic icing-decorating bag and hold with one tip or point hanging straight down. Fold top edges of bag down around the hand that is holding it, and begin spooning filling mixture into the bag. Use scissors to trim the bottom “point” about 1″ to 1-1/2″ from tip (large enough to allow cheese AND seafood to pass easily through the opening), and twist the top opening of the bag shut over the cheese, creating a tube through which you can squeeze the filling.

filled manicotti

Go ahead. No one is looking. Wolf it.

Use a paper towel to pat-dry each piece of pasta right before filling it. Squeeze mixture into pasta, and begin placing filled tubes in two rows in sprayed casserole pan.

When all tubes are filled, top pasta with cream cheese marinara sauce and sprinkle with an additional 1 cup mozzarella.

creamy marinara

Creamy marinara just waiting to be drizzled...

Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake approximately 20 minutes, or until cheese topping is melted.

Ready to bake!

Ready to bake!

Remove pan, uncover, and serve immediately. Refrigerate any leftovers–they reheat beautifully!

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