I was having a difficult time deciding what to make for dinner, so I asked my girls over at the "What's Cooking?" board. I got a split decision between this dinner and chicken with prosciutto, fontina, and mushroom sauce. In an attempt to please everybody, I decided to make the manicotti tonight and the chicken sometime soon. Wow! This dinner did not disappoint!
Many people seem to have trouble stuffing the manicotti noodles, for some reason. My tips (not that I'm an expert) would be to make sure you leave the pasta a little underdone so it holds its shape well, and to use a small spoon so you're not trying to stuff too much filling in at one time.
My sister commented that this would be even better with spicy Italian sausage instead of ground beef. I'd have to agree. Great suggestion, Tay! I think I'll do that next time!
Beef and Cheese Manicotti
adapted from Giada de Laurentiis (of course!)
4 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 lb. ground beef
salt and freshly ground black pepper
14 (8 oz. package) manicotti
1 (15 oz.) container whole-milk ricotta (I used part skim and it worked beautifully)
2 c. shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 TBSP chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 c. marinara sauce
2 TBSP butter, cut into pieces
1. Heat a heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tsp. of the olive oil, onion and ground beef. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until the meat browns and the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and cool.
2. Brush 1 tsp. of oil over a large baking sheet. Cook the manicotti in a large pot of boiling salted water until slightly softened, but still very firm to the bite, about 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the manicotti from the pot to the oiled baking sheet and cool.
3. Meanwhile, combine the ricotta, 1 c. mozzarella cheese, 1/4 c. Parmesan, and parsley. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper to taste, and mix. Stir the cooled meat mixture into the cheese mixture.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
5. Brush the remaining 2 tsp. of oil over a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Spoon 1 1/2 cups of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish.
6. Fill the manicotti with the cheese-meat mixture. Arrange the stuffed pasta in a single layer in the prepared dish and spoon the remaining sauce over.
7. Sprinkle the remaining 1 c. of mozzarella cheese, then the remaining 1/4 c. of Parmesan over the stuffed pasta. Dot entire dish with the butter pieces. Bake the manicotti uncovered until heated through and the sauce bubbles on the sides of the dish, about 35 minutes. Let the manicotti stand 5 minutes and serve.