Upgrade The Savory Notes In Your Manicotti With Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Few dishes are as tough to get wrong as stuffed shells. Manicotti is all about toothy al dente pasta loaded with cheese and sauce, and we're all about it. That said, even though a poorly executed manicotti is still delicious, there are ways to make this elevated comfort dish even better. It's time to bust out the sun-dried tomatoes.

Sun-dried tomatoes add a sweet-earthy flavor and pleasant chew. Showcase that tomato flavor even further with a sprinkle of salty, umami shaved Parmesan cheese and fresh thyme for hearty comfort food so rich and warming that you won't even miss the meat.

To incorporate them into your manicotti, chop those sun-dried tomatoes into a fine dice. Whether you're making a casserole dish of baked manicotti or a manicotti-inspired tray of stuffed shells, those large oval-shaped tomato slices that come in the jar are too big not to mess up your mouthfeel. A few quick pulses in the food processor will get the job done, or you can go the analog route and manually saw each tomato into pieces using a sharp chef's knife. If you're working with sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, pat them dry with paper towels after chopping them up to avoid an overly oily bite that'll cause your filling to separate. From there, gently fold your diced sun-dried tomatoes into your go-to manicotti filling and let the savory ingredient speak for itself.

We do the chew, do you too?

For an easy fusion, you could add those diced red beauties to the filling in our Classic Manicotti recipe. Or, to drive home the sun-dried tomato flavor, you could swap the marinara sauce altogether for sun-dried tomato pesto, which is available in many grocery stores in the pasta sauce aisle. Alternatively, you could steer your customized manicotti toward a creamier route by adding ricotta and cream cheese, counterbalancing the sweet acidity of the sun-dried tomatoes. Red wine vinegar, lemon juice, honey, and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes would round out the profile for a hot-honey-inspired finish. You could also skip the pasta sauce and instead drape your manicotti in a luxurious sun-dried tomato and mushroom cream sauce for an earthy, woody caparison.

However you choose to dress up your manicotti, you can't go wrong with sun-dried tomatoes and some sauteed aromatics like shallots and garlic; a pinch of spinach never hurt, either. Plus, you can whip up a massive batch of manicotti in one sitting and stash it in the freezer for quick make-ahead meals in the future. Serve this Italian entree as a family-style meal with a big bowl of salad and a tray of garlic bread. Or, for a sophisticated dinner party, pair your sun-dried tomato manicotti with wilted asparagus and a medium-bodied red wine like Cabernet Franc of Dolcetto. You could even bulk it up with shredded rotisserie chicken, a few homemade meatballs, or some ground sausage.