Ack, it's almost Tuesday! But ah, the joys of things getting back to normal around the homestead after weeks of comp'ny and holidays. Last week we cleaned up the leftovers from my parents' visit so I didn't really need to cook. That worked nicely until about Wednesday and then I started feeling a distinct yearning to dice and sautee again. I believe I may be addicted to culinary production, y'all.
Which leads me to Tuesday's menu.
OH, how I do love me a nice, warm, bubbly pan of cheese manicotti. You know, cute little pasta tubes all stuffed up good with rich, gooey, fragrant cheese, smothered in savory-with-a-hint-of-sweet tomato sauce and then topped off with a layer of melted mozzarella lightly browned up and toasty? MMMMMAMA MIA! Slurp.
BUT. I've never found a recipe that QUITE lived up to my expectations taste- and consistency-wise, although I've been testing out recipe after recipe since my college days. And that's a long time. And a lot of recipes. Recently I decided to scrap my search and try my hand at creating my OWN recipe for manicotti.
Here's what I came up with:
1 8 oz. pkg manicotti pasta boiled 5 minutes in salted water
1 15 oz. container ricotta cheese
1 cup grated 5 Italian cheese blend
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
12/ t. salt
1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes drained of about half their juice
1/3 cup diced red pepper
1 medium onion, diced
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced then smoothed into a paste with about 1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup white wine
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. dried basil or 2 T. fresh basil, chopped
1 cup grated mozzarella (or the 5 cheese blend from above)
In a skillet or sautee pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until you begin to smell it. Add onions and reduce heat to medium low so the onions cook slowly without browning. Allow onions and pepper to cook until onions transparent and both are tender. Add white wine and stir to free bits of pepper and onion from bottom and sides of pan. Turn heat to med-high. Bring to a boil and then lower heat slightly so the wine can reduce for about 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes with remaining juice and stir in the garlic/salt paste, honey and basil. Allow to boil then reduce heat and cover. Simmer sauce, stirring occasionally as you complete the next steps - about 30 minutes or so.
Cook pasta, drain and set aside to cool where they can be separate and not touching one another (trust me). Pasta won't be DONE-done, but that's what you want.
Mix together the ricotta, egg, grated cheeses, salt, garlic powder and nutmeg and place inside a one gallon storage bag. Cut across one bottom corner of the bag to create about a 1/2 inch opening. Gently pick up one manicotti tubes and squeeze the cheese mixture into it until it's nearly full but not overflowing with cheese. Repeat with all pasta until cheese mixture is gone. You may have a FEW tubes left unfilled. Feed them to the dog, or to the toddler cut into rings and then stirred up with butter and grated parmesan. Toddler Chow!
Line bottom of a casserole dish with one half of the tomato/pepper sauce. Place manicotti on top of the sauce, layering if necessary. Top with remaining sauce and then sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake uncovered at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until everything's bubbly and gooey and luscious-looking. (Hey, cooking ain't a science with me. It's an art.)
Manicotti with Tomato/Pepper Sauce
Hope's Creamed Seafood and Vegetables (From the brand new Penzey's One magazine. Unfortunately, the recipe in question isn't available at that link. If you want it, email me and I'll gladly send it to you. It looks really good.)
Greek Pasta, (Also from Penzey's One magazine, also not available on-line. PHOOEY!)
Menu Plan Monday is hosted by the lovely and organized Laura at I'm an Organizing Junkie. Go visit her now and just see how many hundreds of people out there have it together in the kitchen this week!