Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Cheryl's Italian Manicotti



My Manicotti is the best you'll ever make, it's creamy, and oh so cheesy.,  I add meat most of the time, but occasionally I make it without and you can too, recipe gives the option and you can use different types of ground meats, turkey, beef, ground sirloin, you decide. The sauce is homemade, with fresh herbs I grow myself, you can substitute store bought or dried, use a little more dried.

6 servings

What you need:
1 pound fresh spinach, stems trimmed and well washed or 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed
Kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
12 manicotti shells
3 cups marinara sauce, recipe follows
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese (about 1 pound)
1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tb fresh thyme chopped fine
1 Tb fresh oregano chopped fine
a few sprigs of fresh parsley chopped fine
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, diced

How to make it:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat, and season generously with salt. Fill a medium bowl with ice water and season with salt, as well. Boil the spinach, uncovered, until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, (do not drain), and immediately plunge the spinach into the ice water. Drain and squeeze the excess water from the spinach, and finely chop. Alternatively, if using thawed spinach, simply squeeze, and finely chop.

In the same large pot of boiling water, cook the pasta shells until al dente, tender but still slightly firm. Drain and pat dry.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cover the bottom of a 9- x 13-inch ovenproof baking dish with 1 cup of the marinara sauce. In a medium mixing bowl, evenly combine the ricotta, mozzarella, and 1/3 cup of the Parmesan, the chopped herbs, the eggs, and the spinach. Season with the 1/2 teaspoon salt, nutmeg, and pepper to taste. Spoon the cheese mixture into the manicotti shell and line them up in the baking dish. Cover with the remaining sauce. Scatter the remaining cheese on top and dot with the butter. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

MARINARA SAUCE
1 lb ground meat of your choice if you want, or leave out
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 medium onion, diced (about 3 tablespoons)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 1/2 cups whole, peeled, canned tomatoes in puree, (one 28-ounce can), roughly chopped
Sprig of fresh thyme chopped fine, stems removed
Sprig of fresh basil chopped fine, stems removed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and garlic, stirring, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes, add meat and cook till done. Add the tomatoes and the herb sprigs and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Remove and discard the herb sprigs. Stir in the salt and season with pepper to taste. Use now, or store covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.

Yield: 3 1/2 cups

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