“They say that gardens look better when they are created by loving gardeners rather than by landscapers, because the garden is more tended to and well cared for. The same thing goes for cooking. I only cook for people I love.”
– Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa
It’s true what they say about a home cooked meal: it’s the quickest way to show someone how much you love them. And in truth, this stuffed manicotti recipe is one the quickest (rapido!) dishes in my admittedly expansive Italian food repertoire. These fall into a category I like to call ‘schedule-saving meals’ – you can absolutely whip them up the day before (as in, on Sunday, when you’re not running from home to work to Yoga to a wedding meeting and the grocery store and then home again).
As per my usual, I’m incredibly particular about ingredients, because they are the building blocks of your dish – but you can find FANTASTIC local/organic ingredients just about anywhere, and they don’t have to be overpriced to be great! I’m a really big ‘Sprouts Farmers Market’ shopper, and Mollie Stone’s is a bay area gem as well.
Baked Stuffed Manicotti Con Manzo
You will need:
1 package manicotti pasta (fresh or boxed)
1 lb of extra lean ground beef, grassfed if possible
1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce (I use Rao’s or Mollie Stones’)
15 oz Fat Free Ricotta Cheese
Finely shaved parmesan cheese
Red Pepper flakes
Garlic Salt (dash)
- Pre-heat the oven to 400°
- Bring 6 cups of water to a rolling boil in a large stockpot (Le Creuset works really well to boil quickly), and add in 3 dashes of garlic salt and roughly a tablespoon of olive oil (this will keep the pasta from sticking together later).
- Cook for 6-8 minutes, until pasta is al dente (for fresh pasta, follow instructions on the package).
- While pasta is boiling, brown ground beef with a few dashes of garlic salt in a sauté pan, and keep the chunks medium-sized (cook 5-10 minutes, until browned through). Remove from heat.
- Drain the pasta in a colander, and lay out in an olive oil-coated casserole dish to cool for 2 minutes.
- In a large bowl, combine the cooked ground beef, ½ the jar of pasta sauce, and 1/2 of the container of ricotta (in dollops – don’t blend!). Stir gently, to keep the meat and ricotta chunky.
- Stuff the manicotti with a small spoon, beginning at one end, and holding horizontally so the filling does not fall out. Once full, lay side by side in the casserole dish, until all manicotti have been stuffed.
- Pour the remaining pasta sauce over the casserole dish, and top with shaved Parmesan, and red pepper flakes for a bit of a kick (arrabiata).
- Bake at 400° for 30 minutes, until cheese and sauce are bubbly.