We've all had traditional Cheese Manicotti, and oh my, they are good! My husband, however, is not a huge fan. Too much cheese he says. So, this dish was put together in an effort to find a balance between his taste buds and mine. It turned out pretty awesome!
Manicotti is such a cool pasta. Giant Penne-like pasta (my favorite!) that can be stuffed with your favorite fillings. The delectable layers of cheese, the tang of the yummy marinara sauce! Even my kids are all over this one! So much delicious flavor packed into one pasta tube. This meal also freezes well and re-heats like a dream. Make it over the weekend and then pop it in the oven on a busy weeknight! It also makes a wonderful 'care package' dish; just pre-cook and then leave instructions to re-heat in the oven at 350 for about 30-40 minutes, or until it starts to bubble. Nice garden salad on the side with a little garlic bread and you have a power pasta meal that will make everyone in the house cheer!
The preparation on this meal is very flexible, too. You can slice your own chicken, or buy pre-sliced chicken in the your meat department (like fajita-cut chicken without the spices on it). You can also use pre-shredded cheese (guilty) or you can shred your own from a block. I like the mix that pre-shredded offers, which is why I use it, but it's not necessary. You can easily shred your own mix.
What's important is that you LOVE this dish! It will be awesome! It's quick, tastes fabulous, and makes great leftovers, if they make it that far!
2 chicken breasts, sliced lengthwise into 1" pieces (about 12 pieces)
1 pkg manicotti noodles
2 cups italian cheese blend, divided
1 container (15 oz) ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp garlic salt
2 pints (1 quart) marinara sauce
Cook the noodles as directed on the package. Set them aside on a cookie sheet in a pan to cool. Get a large glass baking dish, 9 x 13, and spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, 1 cup shredded cheese, pepper, and garlic salt. With a large piping tip, fill a piping bag with your cheese mix and set aside.
Take a noodle and place a chicken strip inside lengthwise. Next, pipe cheese into the noodle, filling any space that that was left after the chicken was added. Place it inside your baking dish and repeat. Continue this until all your noodles are filled and your baking dish is full, about 12.
Pour your marinara sauce over the top, making sure all the noodles are covered. Sprinkle the reserved cup of cheese over the top. Place it in an oven pre-heated to 375 for about 25-30 minutes, or until you see bubbling and the cheese is melted. Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before serving.