From America's Test Kitchen episode: Italian-American Classics.
Serves 6 to 8
We prefer Barilla no-boil lasagna noodles for their delicate texture resembling fresh pasta. Note that Pasta Defino and Ronzoni brands contain only 12 no-boil noodles per package; the recipe requires 16 noodles. The manicotti can be prepared through step 5, covered with a sheet of parchment paper, wrapped in aluminum foil, and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month. (If frozen, thaw the manicotti in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.) To bake, remove the parchment, replace the aluminum foil, and increase baking time to 1 to 1 1/4 hours.
1. For the Sauce: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Pulse 1 can tomatoes with their juice in food processor until coarsely chopped, 3 or 4 pulses. Transfer to bowl. Repeat with remaining can tomatoes.
2. Heat oil, garlic, and pepper flakes (if using) in large saucepan over medium heat until fragrant but not brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Stir in basil; adjust seasoning with salt.
3. For the cheese filling: Combine ricotta, 1 cup Parmesan, mozzarella, eggs, salt, pepper, and herbs in medium bowl; set aside.
4. To assemble: Pour 1 inch boiling water into 13 by 9-inch broilersafe baking dish, then add noodles one at a time. Let noodles soak until pliable, about 5 minutes, separating noodles with tip of sharp knife to prevent sticking. Remove noodles from water and place in single layer on clean kitchen towels; discard water in baking dish and dry baking dish.
5. Spread bottom of baking dish evenly with 1 1/2 cups sauce. Using soupspoon, spread 1/4 cup cheese mixture evenly onto bottom three-quarters of each noodle (with short side facing you), leaving top quarter of noodle exposed. Roll into tube shape and arrange in baking dish seam side down. Top evenly with remaining sauce, making certain that pasta is completely covered.
6. Cover manicotti with aluminum foil. Bake until bubbling, about 40 minutes, then remove foil. Remove baking dish, adjust oven rack to uppermost position (about 6 inches from heating element), and heat broiler. Sprinkle manicotti evenly with remaining 1 cup Parmesan. Broil until cheese is spotty brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Cool 15 minutes, then serve.
In our streamlined recipe, the ricotta filling is spread onto softened no-boil lasagna noodles, eliminating the slippery task of stuffing parboiled manicotti shells.
1. Soak no-boil lasagna noodles in boiling water for 5 minutes until pliable, using tip of paring knife to separate noodles and prevent sticking.
2. Using soupspoon, spread about 1/4 cup filling onto three-quarters of each noodle, leaving top quarter of noodle exposed.
3. Roll each noodle by hand and place in baking dish, seam side down.
Many recipes replace the traditional pastry bag with a zipper-lock plastic bag. But using a plastic bag to stuff parboiled manicotti shells is a messy, frustrating job that is eliminated by our simple recipe.