We are having so much fun here at the Sushi Bar with Jolly and Little Guy! There will be more pictures very, very soon, but I can’t let a week go by without at least one recipe. This is a good one, and since I made it for dinner last night, it’s still pretty fresh in my mind.
I’ve mentioned before that Italian is my least favorite ethnic cuisine. Which, according to a survey Beloved read recently in the Podunk Suppository, is directly contrary to the rest of the country – Americans apparently love their pasta. And really, I suppose I should qualify this all: it’s really Southern Italian cuisine that I could take or leave; all that pasta and tomato sauce. I adore polenta and risottos, though, and the very thought of Osso Bucco or Fegato alla Veneziana makes my mouth water.
Yes, I am strange, but you already knew that.
That being said, my family loves pasta and tomato sauce, so I have a few dishes I cook every now and then. Since I am also rather fond of ricotta cheese fillings, I tend to gravitate towards lasagna, ravioli and this dish when called upon to make something other than spaghetti.
This dish isn’t hard to make, although it takes awhile to assemble. You have to handle the manicotti gently when cooking, draining and filling it so the pasta tubes don’t tear too terribly much. Filling the manicotti with the cheese mixture is probably the trickiest part of the dish, but that is much facilitated by the use of a reusable, polyester pastry bag fitted with a collar or tip with a very large hole.
Note: since you’re using a jarred pasta sauce and quite a bit of cheese, there’s no added salt to this dish; it really doesn’t need it, unless you want to salt the water you boil the manicotti in. If you do not eat pork, you can use lean ground beef only for the meatballs; add another half teaspoon of each spice and a little salt and pepper to the meat mixture then.
Three Cheese Manicotti with Meatballs
serves 6 – 8
1 lb box of manicotti (about 14 tubes)
15 oz. container ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded, fresh Parmesan, divided
2 ½ cups shredded Mozzarella cheese, divided
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 large jar of your favorite pasta sauce (we use a local brand called Mids – goooood stuff)
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 slices plain white bread
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Pulse the bread slices with the oregano, basil and thyme in the bowl of a food processor until they are reduced to coarse crumbs. Place the crumbs in a large mixing bowl with the ground beef, Italian sausage, the 2 beaten eggs and about half a cup of the jarred pasta sauce and mix well. Using your hands, form the meat mixture into meatballs about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and brown the meatballs on all sides; reserve and set aside.
Cook the manicotti according to the package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water until cool. Drain again, gently shaking the water from the pasta.
While the manicotti is cooking, mix the ricotta with ½ a cup of the parmesan, ½ a cup of the mozzarella and the one beaten egg in a large mixing bowl until well combined.
Spread about 1/3 of the remaining jarred pasta sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Carefully fill each of the manicotti tubes with the cheese mixture (again, the use of a pastry bag will make this a great deal easier) and place them on top of the sauce in the pan. Place the meatballs on and around the manicotti and spread the rest of the pasta sauce over it all. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil from the dish and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Return the dish to the oven and bake for another 10 – 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown slightly.
Let the manicotti rest for 10 minutes before serving.
And have a lovely weekend, y’all.