Debbie Dance Uhrig
After serving this easy peezy main entrée for our friends, I decided it was time to run this quick fix meal, for my readers. One of the classes I just finished teaching contained this recipe. Every time I instructed the class guests just raved about how much they enjoyed this simple Italian cuisine. That’s a definite confirmation that it needs to be shared with my readers.
When folks see the word ‘manicotti’ I’m afraid they may think that I’m laying out a time consuming elaborate dish. Absolutely not, in fact far from the fact. This recipe was presented in a class geared towards busy families. You will totally adore the tips that accompany this dish. So, why dilly dally let’s talk about the dish.
As I present the recipe below, for this stuffed pasta dish, think super easy. I have given a variety of variations and additions for the recipe, however you will notice you need only basic ingredients. The first responsibility is to acquire the shells of your choice. When I fill manicotti I usually pipe it in with a plastic bag. Most of my guests, however, have told me they split their cooked manicotti open on one side. Fill and then place the shells seam side down, in the baking dish. If you live in a small town your grocer may not carry either of these shells. Just a little reminder. You can also cook the shells, rinse and bag, with a few squirts of olive oil, then fill the next day.
The meat of choice is regular pork sausage, but I really prefer Italian sausage.
I’m using cottage cheese, undrained, when many may prefer ricotta. I can also see other varieties of the dish with chicken and seafood.
The reason for my cheese choice was so you could prepare the dish even if ricotta was not available. (This comes from growing up in a town of about 4-500 people!)
The Italian Five cheese was delicious inside the shells, but on top I preferred fresh grated parmesan. When it was time to serve the entrée it was much easier with parmesan instead of mozzarella or the five cheese Italian.
Spices and herbs are still very simple with only dry basil and black pepper being implemented. If children are enjoying this dish I would probably recommend preparing it just as presented. However most of us would probably appreciate the addition of fresh garlic and onion.
Our friends, the Durand’s, were here from Platte City this week and I served Gary, Terry and Alex, their grandson, this dish for supper. Since I wasn’t sure on all of Alex’s likes and dislikes I used a traditional spaghetti sauce and not the chunky that I prefer.
Probably the best part about this yummy dish is the fact that it can be frozen and cooked later. Flash freeze just the stuffed shells and then bag the next day. Remember to put parchment paper down before layering the shells to freeze.
I’ve also put the entire dish together and froze it ready made for the oven.
When it comes to how many you will need for a meal I suggest you consider the guests in attendance. Usually most adults will consume 3 stuffed shells. Big eaters will eat 4, football players will eat 4-6, small children usually 2. Accompany the shells with a delicious Italian salad and French bread and you’re complete.
What’s real nice is to have enough for one meal and freeze the rest for a different time.
My last tip is to spread a little sauce down in the bottom of the baking dish as you would when preparing lasagna. This will keep your noodles from sticking.
Have fun preparing this quick fix meal. I’m hoping it becomes one of your families favorite go to recipes. Enjoy the week and best wishes to all the young people returning to school, especially my good friend, Alex Linnell.
Simply Yours, The Covered Dish, www.thecovereddish.com
Stuffed Manicotti or Shells
1 (16 ounce) pkg. manicotti shells cooked and cooled OR
30-34 large shell macaroni, cooked and cooled
1 (16 oz.) container cottage cheese or ricotta, undrained
1 pound cooked and drained sausage
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon dry basil
2 eggs, whisked
8 ounces shredded Italian five cheeses
1 (24 ounce) chunky spaghetti sauce or marinara*
(May need 2 jars if making all the shells at once.)
Additional cheese of choice for the top, for testing parmesan was used.
2-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup finely minced onion
1/3 cup finely chopped peppers of choice
Prepare water for cooking the pasta according to package directions. Cook, cool and drain. While the pasta is cooking cook the sausage and any additional vegetables, drain. Gather a large bowl and place meat, cottage cheese, seasonings, 2 eggs and Italian five cheeses. Mix together, stirring well.
Layer a bit of the spaghetti sauce into the baking dish. Fill each shell and then layer into the pan. When complete drizzle more sauce over all the shells and cover with grated parmesan cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until heated thoroughly and cheese is melted.
*For testing Ragu Chunky Tomato Garlic and Onion Sauce was implemented.