Friday, May 15, 2009

Cheese-Stuffed Manicotti with Meat Sauce

OK OK I forgot to take pictures again, but there are leftovers so I could. If I remember...

Anyhow, who loves Italian food? Who loves cheese? And marinara sauce? And MEAT? And and and...(wiping drool) it makes a whole pan-full.

So this is certainly not a top-secret, high class recipe. It's mine. It's pretty basic. It's in the style of good ol' Sandra Lee of "Semi-homemade" fame.

Ingredients
1 box manicotti
1 jar marinara sauce
1 lb shredded mozzarella cheese(16 oz. or 4 cups)
1 15-oz. tub ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup water
parmesan or romano cheese (optional)

Method
1. Boil manicotti according to package directions. This takes usually about 7 minutes to get to. Also, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Meanwhile, brown meat until cooked through. Drain excess fat. Set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg. Add mozzarella, ricotta, basil, and oregano and blend well.
4. When manicotti has finished boiling, drain and run under cool water. You want them to be slightly firm so they are easier to fill. If they are too soft, the can also tear easily.
5. Begin stuffing the manicotti shells with the cheese mixture. I use my fingers for this. Just grab a lump of cheese and roll it slightly into a tube or ball and stuff them into the manicotti until each piece hs been filled. You should use up all of the cheese mixture for a box of manicotti shells.
6. Divide your marinara sauce. Mix about 1/2 cup sauce with the water and pour into your 9" x 13" baking dish. Arrange stuffed manicotti on top of sauce.
7. When all of the filled manicotti are in the baking dish, sprinkle the browned meat over top.
8. Pour the remaining, undiluted marinara sauce over the manicotti and meat.
9. Cover the baking dish with foil and place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
10. If you like extra cheese, you can sprinkle some real parmesan or romano cheese on top of it all at this point and bake another 10 minutes or until the cheese has browned.
11. Enjoy with a nice glass of sangria.

Note: This meal serves about 6 people. If you want to make it slightly healtier, use low-fat ricotta and mozzarella instead of whole-milk versions for the stuffing or ground turkey instead of beef.