Enchiladas, like so many brilliant culinary innovations, date back to the ancient Mayans. Corn was plentiful, which gave rise to the fundamental, unassailable corn tortilla. Of course, they were called tlaxcalli at the time, later changed by Spanish conquistadors who couldn’t pronounce the word and forever changed the course of history. While tacos might seem like the most obvious use, a strong argument could be made that enchiladas were the first tortilla-based delicacy written into the annals of history. Originally, the dish consisted of nothing more than empty corn tortillas, rolled for a compact bite, and dipped in chili sauce. Before they were ever fried or filled, people have found these edible vessels worthy within their own rights.
Thus, I present to you an entirely controversial proposal: Try taking the tortilla out of the enchilada.
I promise, that’s not a hypothetical request or an impossible riddle. It occurred to me early on in the pandemic, when grocery deliveries were more akin to a new episode of Chopped, bringing with it a new mystery basket each week. Pasta has always been essential, but the exact form it would take was a bit of a wild card. Not a problem if you’re swapping ziti for penne, but giant manicotti tubes instead of pastina? Something was lost in translation on that exchange. Having never made manicotti before, those jumbo cylinders sat in the pantry for quite some time.
While I may be old, I certainly wasn’t around when the Mayans were creating this ground-breaking food, so my association with enchiladas is more strongly linked to the sauce and filling. One day, craving something with Mexican flair but lacking the traditional nixtamalized base, I came across that Italian staple just waiting for a purpose, and had this wild idea. Why smother them in plain red sauce when we could spice things up a bit?
Thus, Enchilada Manicotti were born. Perfect for a fiesta, family dinner, or cozy night in, the chewy pasta casing is stuffed with high-protein soyrizo and drowned in piquant enchilada sauce. Arguably easier than the contemporary take on this dish, you don’t need to worry about finicky tortillas cracking or unrolling in the oven. After a bit of assembly, you can take the rest of the night off, since it pretty much cooks itself.
Try a few different twists to make this formula your own:
- Tender cubes of buttery gold potatoes add more heft to the filling, but this could be a great opportunity to sneak in other veggies, like riced cauliflower, diced zucchini, corn kernels, diced bell peppers, or a combination of your favorites.
- Add shredded vegan cheese to the filling and/or topping, if you want to increase the richness and crave-worthy goo-factor.
- Go all-out and make everything from scratch, including your own soyrizo, enchilada sauce, and sour cream for a real show-stopper of an entree that will impress all your friends and relatives.
- Swap the red enchilada sauce for mole or chile verde sauce when you want a flavorful change of pace.
What can you serve with Enchilada Manicotti?
Both enchiladas and manicotti are ideal complete meals in and of themselves, needing no additional flourishes to completely satisfy. However, there are still plenty of complementary accompaniments you can consider to round out your plate:
- Green salad or cabbage slaw
- Yellow rice or cilantro rice
- Black beans, pinto beans, or refried beans
- Pico de gallo or your favorite salsa
- Sliced avocado or guacamole
- Tortilla chips
Is it Ital-ican, or maybe Mex-alian? Honestly, neither really capture the free spirit and full flavor of this dish. I’m perfectly satisfied to call it “delicious” and leave it at that. No matter what, you’ll want to leave room for a second helping.