Monday, June 25, 2007

Manicotti

This has been a favorite meal of mine for a long time. It's a bit of a hassle to make (what with the stuffing of slippery, easily breakable, cooked manicotti shells), but it tastes so good, I think it's worth it -- so long as you have the time and energy to devote to it.

Ingredients:
  • 1 8-oz box manicotti shells
  • 8+ oz mozzarella cheese, grated (8 oz for filling, extra for top, if desired)
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 2 tbsp parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 3 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce (about one jar)
  • Diced tomatoes (optional)
Directions:
Cook manicotti, drain. Combine cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper for filling. Spoon into the manicotti shells. Spread a thin layer of spaghetti sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Arrange manicotti in a single layer over the sauce. Cover with remaining sauce. Top with diced tomatoes (optional) and a sprinkling of extra mozzarella cheese (also optional). Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake 15 minutes longer. Makes 6-8 servings.

Hints:
Because stuffing the manicotti shells is often more difficult than it's worth (in my opinion, anyway), I've decided to justify a little cheating. Simply slice open the shells (once they're cooked), fill with the cheese filling, roll them back up and place, sliced side down, in the pan. They might not look Martha Stewart-esque, but they'll taste the same. Also, it is tempting (for me, at least) to want to put more filling into the shells than I really need -- which ends up being a slight problem when I start to run out of filling and still have half a dozen shells to fill. My advice: just don't go overboard on the stuffing. If you end up with extra, it's pretty simple to stuff a bit more into the shells.

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