Vegetable Manicotti with Vodka Cream Sauce

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     I have never made manicotti. That’s right. The princess of pasta has never made manicotti. Surprised? I am kind of surprised I’ve never made it. I like to eat it. I’ve had it at restaurants but I’ve never made it myself.

     I recently came across a recipe for a vegetable manicotti with a homemade vodka cream sauce. I was in love before I even made it. I made the sauce in the morning. It was easy to make and smelled divine. I covered it up and refrigerated it until I made the manicotti. Basically, you can use any vegetable you want in the manicotti. All you have to do is sauté it then add it to the cheese mixture. I’d recommend you have a base of onions, garlic, and spinach, but feel free to add in whatever veggies your family enjoys. We added mushrooms, artichokes, and shredded carrots.
Vegetable Manicotti with Vodka Cream Sauce

      The manicotti took some time to prepare but it looked great. I spread some of the vodka sauce on the bottom of a pan, put in the manicotti, then topped it with the remaining sauce. They were really good! The manicottis were firm and easily held the stuffing. The insides tasted of a vegetables medley slathered in Italian cheeses. The sauce was wonderful with the vegetable manicotti. It wasn’t too heavy on the tomatoes and paired well with the vegetables. We each only ate 3 manicotti because they were so filling. This would be a great dish to prepare for company because it can be made in the morning and then refrigerated until it’s time to heat.

Vegetable Manicotti with Vodka Cream Sauce (adapted from Pretty Peas )

For the manicotti:
12 manicotti shells cooked, drained, and cooled
10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 T. olive oil
1 onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 oz. mushrooms, chopped
1 can artichoke hearts, chopped
2 carrots, shredded
1 c. lowfat ricotta cheese
¼ c. Parmesan cheese
½ c. mozzarella cheese

1 t. salt
1 t. black pepper

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a large baking pan with cooking spray.

2.   Heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Add in the onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add in the mushrooms, carrots, and artichokes and cook for 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

3. Put the spinach and the onion mixture in a large bowl. Add ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses. Mix well. Add in the salt and pepper and stir.

4. Stuff the manicotti with the prepared mixture. Place in the baking pan with vodka cream sauce covering the bottom.  Pour remaining vodka sauce over the top of the manicotti.  Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and continue baking for an additional 10 minutes. 

**To freeze the manicotti, place on a cookie sheet and freeze for 3-4 hours.  Wrap in plastic wrap then place them in a freezer bag and keep frozen for up to 6 months.**

For the vodka cream sauce:
1 T. olive oil
½ onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
½ c. light cream
½ c. low fat milk
1/3 c. vodka
1 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
½ t. oregano
¼ c. Parmesan cheese

1. In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add in the garlic and onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half.

2. Add in the cream, milk, and vodka stirring well to combine. Stir in salt, pepper, and oregano. Stir occasionally over simmer for 30 minutes.

3. Add in Parmesan cheese and remove from heat.

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