Manicotti - Something Better than Ricotta

I have to say I’m no longer a fan of ricotta (at least not what is available at my local Safeway). My choices are Galbani, or their Lucerne house brand. Not tried the latter as I just figured the Galbani would be better, but am not a fan. It just seems like tasteless cream cheese/calories with literally no curd.

I used to use this in lasagna, but replaced it with a parmesan bechamel which I much prefer.

But now I wanna make Manicotti with my fresh pasta sheets, but have no ideas on a ricotta-less filling. Meat (with maybe bread crumbs), veggies, parmesan, maybe some Moz, and some eggs to hold it all together, etc… but obviously there is a concern of ruining the fresh pasta due the consistency of the filling.

So, do you have a favorite filling that is ricotta-less?

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Have you ever made Marcella Hazan’s fresh pasta Bolognese lasagna? You could adapt it for manicotti, just eliminate ricotta. No eggs. She has you rinse out the pasta sheets after you blanch them in boiling water.

Have you tried making your own ricotta? I’ve had good luck with Ina Garten’s recipe.

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Galbani has two ricotta products they sell. One is better, with no stabilizers. It’s still not as good as Calabro or fresh from a deli, but much better than the more common one they sell which has gums/stabilizers. If you want to make it, I suggest making it with rennet, which produces really delicious ricotta that I like much better than ones made by using vinegar or lemon juice.
As for manicotti, this is one of my favorite preparations.


I make a Cannelloni that might work as a manicotti. It is probably similar to the Bolognese lasagna idea Aubergine mentioned. The filling is made be by sauteing ground meat with onions, garlic and then processing it with diced prosciutto and mortadella, eggs, and Parmesan to a fine chop. The texture of saw dust my recipe says. Once rolled up you cover with bechamel. I put the marinara on the bottom of the pan. It might be too rich and not the right texture Manicotti. With the cannelloni you spread the mixture on the pasta and roll using about 1 1/2 T of the mixture. I have never made manicotti but I assume you use more filling in those. It might work for you.

I’m not sure if Safeway sells deli meat in a way you can dice. You might be able to use sliced meat just don’t overprocess it into a paste.


Sounds pretty good, but am thinking I want the bechamel inside the pasta with the filling, and a marinara on the top.

Thanks. Both of my choices have lots of gum in them, which is probably why I am less than happy with them. I am much more interested in replacing it rather than trying make my own ( of which I have no clue).

I think the bechamel would make that filling too loose and mushy.

How about shredded chicken mixed with bechamel and parmesan as a filling? Adding peas, or asparagus might be good for a springtime feel. Butternut squash, chicken, with bechamel and parm would be good too. Tempering eggs into the bechamel would thicken the sauce and help bind the filling. Like what is done in making pastitsio and moussaka. At least the way I do it. Some people use cornstarch.

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Have you thought of replacing with cottage cheese? You can find cottage cheese with no stabilizers and it works well as a ricotta replacement. You just have to blitz it with an immersion blender or in the food processor. Cook’s Illustrated recommended cottage cheese in place of ricotta once upon a time.

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Try the Serious Eats recipe I linked. It’s pretty much exactly that, and you can replace the veal with pork or other meat you prefer.

Biazzo whole milk ricotta is my favorite. I could eat that stuff with a spoon straight from the container. As someone else mentioned you can make it yourself. Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten has a simple recipe but it is expensive with a lot of heavy cream and whole milk. It produces delicious results though.

If someone asked me to make manicotti with no ricotta I’d probably do a spinach/mozzarella filling and possibly with ground Italian sausage if they wanted meat in it. I make it with homemade crepes though rather than pasta.

Have you tried making ricotta? It’s stupid easy if not particularly inexpensive. Use good milk. Follow directions. BUT when ready to remove curds from the pot, please use a LADLE and carefully and slowly move curds to cheesecloth lined strainer. Depending on how dense you want your cheese, leave the drained curds alone. Immediately, they are creamy. With time, they thicken. Perhaps taste along the way.

If you’re not a “fan” of the classic ricotta (parmesan, mozzarella, egg and spinach) filling, you could certainly use whatever cheeses and/or combination of filling you like.

String cheese manicotti

Asparagus wrapped in prosciutto or ham with bechamel sauce

Mexican manicotti

Manicotti cordon bleu

Seafood manicotti. Shrimp, scallops, crab.

Chili cheese dog manicotti. (I couldn’t resist.)

If you’re going to do this, try doing a second round of heating/curdling/straining – I usually can get 10-20% of the first batch, which is noticeable for enough milk base.

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Oh, I like that! Maybe with a hint of lemon and wine.

Yup… I like cottage cheese, but never cooked it.

Sounds great.

I think it is just what is available here that I have a problem with. I have always liked cheese ravioli in restaurants

Thanks everybody… some good stuff here.

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It depends on the milk so whether it is sheep, goat or cow milk.
Some brands are marked as creamy.
I would only use full fat Ricotta and my go to for pasta is Ricotta Fiorella.

I would try it with mushrooms and dry cottage cheese.

A meatball style filling with Marinara topped with cheese.
Fried minced mushroom binded with breadcrumbs egg and garlic with shredded cabbage in an Alfredo sauce.
Chilli filling topped with cheese.
The possibilities are almost endless.