Sunday, August 26, 2007

Classic Manicotti with Marinara Sauce

Here's a recipe that I patched together using recipes from Giada De Laurentis, Mario Borgatti and the back of the Bertolli box -- it turned out great!!! Enjoy!

4 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion coarsely chopped
1 pound ground Italian sausage (if you don't like sausage that well, use ground beef or a half pound ground beef and half pound sausage)
Salt and fresh ground pepper
12 (8 oz package) manicotti
15 oz whole milk ricotta
3 cups shredded mozzarella
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves
3 cups marinara sauce (recipe to follow -- or just use a jar of Prego)
2 Tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Brown sausage and onion in a skillet over medium heat with 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Cook until onions are translucent and meat is browned. Remove from heat and cool.

Brush 1 Tablespoon olive oil over a large cookie sheet. Cook the manicotti in a large pot of boiling salted water until slightly softened, but still very firm to the bite (4-6 minutes). Using a slotted spoon remove the manicotti from the pot to the oiled baking sheet and cool.

Combine the ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan and parsley. Add the garlic, salt and pepper to taste and mix, stir the cooled meat mixture into the cheese mixture. Make sure the meat mixture is cool, or it makes for difficult transfer to the manicotti tubes!

Brush the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil over a 9 x 13 pan. Spoon half of the marinara over the bottom of the prepared dish. Fill the manicotti with the meat/cheese mixture. Arrange the stuffed pasta in a single layer in the prepared dish and spoon the remaining marinara sauce over the top. ** Stuffing the manicotti can be a real pain, but I found that if I put all the filling in a gallon Ziploc bag and then cut off one of the bottom corners, I could shoot it right in, it made it a lot easier!

Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese, then the remaining Parmesan over the stuffed pasta. Dot the entire dish with the putter pieces. Bake uncovered for 35 minutes, or until heated through. Let manicotti sit for 5 minutes and then serve.

Marinara Sauce

1/3 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Salt and fresh ground pepper
2 quarts canned tomatoes, mostly drained (or 2-28 oz cans crushed tomatoes)
10 basil leaves (fresh is best)
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
** You can add other spices that meet your individual tastes, but this gives you a good base to begin with.

Saute the garlic with the oil until tender. Add remaining ingredients, then raise the heat to medium high and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Simmer for 30+ minutes or until it is reduced to the consistency you prefer. The sauce can be stored for up to 5 days in the refrigerator or several months in the freezer. Yields 5 cups.

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