|I woke yesterday with the wish to finally get back into my kitchen since the big party AND with an incredible urge to make manicotti. Funny thing is? I don't think I've ever eaten manicotti let alone made it before. Weird, eh? Stuffed pasta dishes weren't big in our family - other than my father's Christmas ravioli and the occasional offering of stuffed shells on our restaurant menu. So how could I crave them? Ya got me.. but I'm glad I did!!|
Not having a recipe made it a lil hard to figure out how to make them, although I had a pretty good idea what I wanted to stuff them with. So off I went to All Recipes as I always do when in search of ideas and or specific recipes. I was not disappointed in finding many recipes for Manicotti, that's for sure. I chose to go with Manicotti Alla Romana submitted by Mark Blau. Although I didn't follow his recipe to the Tee.. it did give me the guidelines I needed for a perfect Manicotti dish.
The reason I chose his recipe was because of the bechamel sauce involved. Although I wasn't sure if I'd include it or not - as my favorite Lasagna Roll recipe from Giada (a/k/a The Head and Mammories) calls for bechamel, it doesn't need it and I haven't included it since the very first time I made her rolls years ago. But this bechamel was slightly different with the addition of chicken bouillon. I found that interesting and decided to try it. It was fantastic! My only change next time would be to try to create this sauce with chicken stock as opposed to the bouillon granules because you could slightly taste it was bouillon. I really feel though, that this addition of bechamel really pushed the dish over the top. So if you decide to try this recipe.. don't skip it. =)
The other changes I made were to leave the spinach out and to substitute 1/2 pound of the ground meat for 1/2 pound of pork sausage. And I added Pecorino to the meat mixture as well.
Here is my slightly different version of the above referenced recipe -
2 TBS olive oil
1/2 c. chopped vidalia onion
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 pound ground round
1/2 pound ground pork sausage
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
14 manicotti shells (1 package)
2 c. ricotta cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
3 c. marinara sauce (divided)
2 TBS. butter
2 TBS. all-purpose flour
2 TBS. chicken bouillon granules
2 c. half-and-half
1/4 c. fresh chopped parsley
2 TBS. fresh chopped basil
1/2 c. Parmigiano Reggiano
Preheat oven to 350º F.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute onions until translucent. Saute garlic for 1 minute and stir in ground beef and pork sausage. Cook until well browned and crumbled. Season with salt & pepper and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add a generous amount of salt. Add manicotti shells and parboil for half of the time recommended on the package (5 minutes). Drain and cover with cool water to stop the cooking process and prevent the shells from cracking.
To the ground beef/pork sausage mixture add the ricotta cheese and Pecorino Romano. When the mixture is cool, add the beaten eggs. Spread 1/4 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Gently drain the manicotti shells and carefully stuff each one with the meat and cheese mixture; place shells in prepared dish. Lightly cover the dish with plastic wrap or a clean, damp towel to prevent shells from cracking. See Note.
Prepare the white sauce by melting the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and chicken bouillon. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly, until it begins to bubble. Stir in half and half and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in parsley. Pour or ladle the sauce evenly over the stuffed shells.
Carefully pour or ladle marinara sauce over the white sauce, trying to layer the sauces without mixing. Sprinkle the basil over the marinara sauce.
Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, uncover and sprinkle with Parmigiano cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 10 minutes more. Let sit for 5-10 minutes so the manicotti will set a bit.
*Note: After stuffing the Manicotti, I placed them into a plastic container that has a tight fitting lid. I used wax paper between the layers to prevent sticking and froze 8 Manicotti and only baked 6. Two manicotti per person is a generous portion.. unless you are Hubbs and eat 4. har!