Manicotti, American-style

Posted on September 3, 2007. Filed under: beef, italian, pasta |

I’m currently on a mini-vacation, thanks to Labor Day, and instead of spending today stuffing myself with typical Labor Day foods (hot dogs, hamburgers, et al), I made manicotti.

I love stuffed pasta, although making it can be a pain in the neck (recently I made what has to be the messiest lasagna on the face of the earth), and manicotti’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of stuffed pasta (the second being a similarly awesome stuffed shells recipe that undoubtedly will make an appearance the next time I’m in the mood).  This particular recipe came from Parade magazine – yes, the supplement that comes with the Sunday paper – sometime before 1986.  There’s nothing complicated about it; its pasta, a ricotta and mozzarella filling, and a fairly basic meat sauce, and its good, hearty comfort food.  Not for the low-carb dieters among us though (incidentally: low carb? could not survive).

On to the recipe:

1 lb. Ground chick or sausage meat
1 C finely chopped onion
1/2 C chopped green pepper
2 cans (6-oz size) tomato paste
2 cups water
2 t salt
2 t sugar
1 t oregano leaves
1/2 t ground black pepper
1 pkg (8oz) manicotti shells
6 qts. Boiling water
1 lb. Fine-curd creamed cottage cheese or Ricotta
2 C (8 oz) grated Mozzarella cheese
2 T chopped parsley
1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese

1.    In a large skillet or Dutch oven, cook beef until it loses red color, breaking up with spoon as it cooks.
2.    Add onion and green pepper, cook until tender, stirring occasionally. Drain off fat if necessary.
3.    Stir in tomato paste, 2 cups water, 2 tsp. salt, sugar, oregano, 1/2 tsp pepper; bring to boiling. Cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
4.    Meanwhile, gradually add manicotti and 1 T salt to rapidly boiling water so that water continues to boil. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until barely tender. Drain in colander. Keep shells in cold water until ready to fill. (I don’t cook them this long – I only put them in the boiling water for 4 or 5 minutes. If they are too soft, they are difficult to handle.)
5.    Combine ricotta, mozzarella, 1/2 tsp pepper and parsley.
6.    Fill the shells with the cheese filling. [I usually roll a tube of the cheese and slide it into the manicotti.]
7.    Pour a thin layer of mat sauce in bottom of a shallow baking pan. Arrange filled shells side by side in a single layer in the pan. [If you have another sauce you like, use it instead of this one.]
8.    Cover with remaining meat sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
9.    Bake uncovered in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 to 40 minutes until bubbly.

The most frustrating part of this is knowing that you’ll have at least some broken manicotti tubes, as I did today.  In the future, I’ll shake the box to make sure – or just buy two, as insurance.

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