Lightened Up Manicotti


The other day, the Taste Tester came home from work asking about manicotti, and, more specifically, why he had neither had it nor heard of it. After his inquiry I realized I have never made it, so I decided to check it out. We aren’t big pasta eaters in the Foodiocentric household, but Taste Tester was convinced this could be good because of the low pasta to toppings/fillings ratio. And, I have to agree, one of the best things about this recipe is that between the fillings and the toppings, you do consume a relatively small amount of actual pasta. The bad news is you consume a relatively large amount of cheese mixed with other types of cheese.

BUT, it was absolutely delicious. And by substituting low-fat cottage cheese for the traditional ricotta and making a hearty meat sauce, I managed to keep the recipe relatively light. It definitely didn’t feel heavy. I paired mine with garlic bread (using Ezekiel sprouted grain bread) and my mom’s classic Italian salad, which I shared in Food52’s new (Not)Recipes app.

Manicotti 2

This recipe is definitely heavy on the prep. As I was squeezing cheese out of a Ziploc freezer bag and willing it to fill an uncooked noodle, I found myself wondering why I did not just make lasagna.** I have never made lasagna, but logistically it has to be easier than this. And the taste is about the same. So, someone tell me, why does manicotti exist when we could just have lasagna?!? Anyway, use this recipe at your own risk. Make manicotti, lasagna, or stuffed shells, the filling is truly delicious and very simple.


**I should issue a disclaimer here. I snipped the opening in my Ziploc a little too large. (I was using it piping bag style to fill the noodles). It created a huge mess. However, I finally gave up and started over from scratch with a NEW bag and appropriately snipped opening and it worked much better. This revelation might allow me to make this recipe again. I am also wondering if you could make up a big batch of these and then pop them in the freezer. Let me know if you try that!


343 cal
17 g
8 g
38 g

Click Here For Full Nutrition, Exchanges, and My Plate Info

Serves 3 noodles

Lightened Up Manicotti

35 minPrep Time

1 hrCook Time

1 hr, 35 Total Time

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  • 12 Manicotti Noodles
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • Pasta sauce of choice
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • 3-4 handfuls (2 cups) chopped spinach, to taste
  • 1 1/2 t. dried oregano
  • 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese


  1. Pre-heat oven to 375.
  2. Brown ground beef in skillet, breaking it up into very small pieces as it cooks. When browned, add sauce and set aside.
  3. In a bowl, combine 1.5 cups mozzarella and the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Transfer the cheese mixture into a freezer sized Ziploc. Snip a very small opening in one of the bottom corners.
  5. Slowly squeeze the cheese mixture out of the bag and into one shell. Repeat until all shells are filled. My mixture only filled 12 shells.
  6. Place filled shells in the bottom of a shallow casserole dish. Cover with meat sauce and top with remaining mozzarella. I added a little extra parm as well.
  7. Cover pan with foil and bake for 1 hour or until noodles are soft. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

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