Me and Italian food – we go together like rama lama lama
ke ding a de dinga a dong. Forget Sandy and Danny, me and marinara are the best couple around. I’m kinda of the mind that even bad Italian food is good Italian food, so it isn’t surprising that we tend to eat a lot of it around my house.
I’d like to say that my efforts are like Chef Mario Batali. Unfortunately, I have to admit they are closer to Chef Boyardee – but again, bad Italian is good Italian, so I soldier on. Spaghetti is far and away the most often prepared, but lasagne makes a good second showing. Italian meatball subs, polenta, baked ziti – all good stuff that shows up periodically on my table.
Well, Saturday night another dish joined the ranks – manicotti. I’ve made it before but for some reason I never think of it. Hubby mentioned having some at work and it sparked my brain into making it at home. I’m glad I did because it was easy and tasty, plus it made a nice change from the spaghetti. I made it with Italian sweet sausage, lots of onion and ricotta for the filling – but there are tons of variations. The one downfall was using an “on sale” marinara sauce. Man, the sauce does matter; don’t just grab any old cheapie thing. Normally, manicotti takes tubular pasta but I like using the big shells.
Here’s my version for your reading pleasure:
1 box large shell pasta (I used Barilla – my usual pasta)
One jar of marinara (get the best you can find)
1 package of Italian sweet sausage
1/2 large sweet onion, finely chopped
Salt, pepper, nutmeg
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Boil the pasta according to the package directions. Once they are done, drain and rinse in cool water.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, heat two tablespoons (or so) of olive oil in a large pan and saute the onions for about three minutes. Add the sausage, crumbling it up into small chunks as it cooks. Lightly pepper and salt the cooking sausage and onions. Cook until meat is no longer pink, remove from the heat.
Mix ricotta, beaten egg and parmesan in a large bowl. Add teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and a couple dashes of nutmeg. Mix well. When the meat mixture has cooled slightly, add it to the ricotta mixture, blending well.
Pour approximately 1/3rd of the sauce onto the bottom of your baking dish, spread to coat. Using a large spoon, fill each cooked shell with a scoop of the sausage mixture. Place each shell in the dish, top the shells with the remaining sauce and mozzarella. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes.
Chang chang chang-it-ty chang
That’s the way it should be
Wha oooh yeah!