Monday, February 9, 2009

Beef and Cheese Manicotti

This is a big day for me in more ways than one. I'm starting back to work. I actually started on Saturday. Well. . . . it is just a contract job for busy season. I'm a tax accountant and this is my big time of year.

Also, this is the first time I'm blogging about a comment I received from someone other than my sister or my mother!! I got a comment about the Olive Garden Style Gnocchi Soup recipe. If you read this blog, you probably know that I'm not a fan of MSG. I am not allergic to it but I am against eating it knowingly and my kind reader informed me that there are bouillon cubes out there that have no MSG in them! Wow! I had no idea. The reader tells me that Knorr makes no MSG New Chicken Bouillon cubes. I am definitely going to be looking for them the next time I go to the grocery store. Thanks for letting me know. I am also going to promise that I will install an "email me" link in this web so you don't have to leave a comment. I have no idea why I can't post comments anymore. It is probably a "use it or lose it" feature and now I lost it. No, really, I have so much trouble with comments that it is much easier for me to get an email and then I can blog about the comment.

I'm actually looking forward to starting work except for the fact that I'm sure I won't be cooking as much.

Which leads me to what I did yesterday. I made a batch of our family favorite Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies yesterday (I blogged about them and gave the recipe last spring). They are the ones that were supposed to be from Nordstrom where someone asked for the recipe at Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus (depending on which email you got) and she was charged $250 so she emailed the recipe to everyone and it kept going and going and going. I don't think that is a true story. I know I checked on and it is an urban legend. But, no matter, they are really great cookies. I burned the bottoms of a few of them this time because I was trying to make manicotti at the same time. Not a good idea!

So obviously, I made my first batch of manicotti yesterday, too. Being Italian, you might think that I had made manicotti many times before but I have NEVER made it before. I was a manicotti virgin. My family has always been more of a lasagna family. I grew up with my mom's lasagna. I never ate it because I was so darn picky back then. I had always heard of manicotti but I never tried to make it nor have I ever eaten it. D and I went grocery shopping yesterday after religious ed. He was supposed to pick out some pasta, so I was stunned and shocked when he picked out a box of manicotti! I couldn't believe it but I didn't want to scare him by screaming in the middle of the grocery store. After I composed myself a bit I thought, "hey why not try making manicotti." It is finally my time to take the plunge. I did some googling and found Giada de Laurentiis' recipe for manicotti. It looked like the perfect recipe for me to try since I had almost all the ingredients in my house. I decided to use her recipe along with a few of my own short-cuts. Shhhh! Don't tell Giada but I used jarred tomato sauce. My boys actually like the Nature's Promise Organic Parmesan Tomato Sauce that I get at our local Martin's Grocery Store. I used ground turkey because I had it in my freezer. I would definitely have used ground beef if I had any. You probably already assumed that I used part-skim ricotta because I always try to save a little fat when I can but I'm sure Giada's original recipe with the full-fat ricotta and the ground beef is awesome. Her marinara sauce sounds really good too. I have also gotten a great tomato sauce recipe from one of my neighbors that I plan to blog about one day soon. Thanks Vicky!

Beef and Cheese Manicotti
Giada de Laurentiis

1/2 pound (8 ounces) ground beef
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 (15-ounce) container whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
3 teaspoons olive oil
12 pieces of manicotti pasta (from one 8-ounce box)
1 1/2 cups Marinara Sauce (click here for recipe)
1 tablespoon butter, cut into pieces

Heat a medium-size, heavy skillet over a medium flame. Add the ground beef and onion and saute until the meat brown and the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the ricotta, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir in the meat mixture and set aside.

Brush 1 teaspoon of the olive oil over a large baking sheet. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Working in batches, add the manicotti and cook until softened but still firm to the bite, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the manicotti from the pot to the prepared baking sheet and let cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil over a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Spoon 1 & 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish. Fill the manicotti with the cheese-meat mixture, and arrange the stuffed pasta in a single layer in the prepared dish. Spoon the remaining cup of sauce over the manicotti. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese over the manicotti. Dot the top with the butter pieces. (The manicotti can be prepared up to this point 8 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Bake the manicotti uncovered until it is heated through and the sauce bubbles on the bottom of the dish, about 35 minutes. Let the manicotti stand for 5 minutes and serve.

All I can tell you is that my boys loved it. They want it on our regular recipe list. I am definitely going to be making this manicotti again. I would like to try making my own manicotti shells one day. I saw instructions online on how to do that. It doesn't look too terribly hard. I like the idea of really thin crepe-like manicotti. Now that I am no longer a manicotti "virgin" I am also going to try one of the manicotti florentine recipes that look really yummy. I'm not scared of manicotti anymore!


The Creative Cook