Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mmmmm....Baked Manicotti

It feels good to be back in the kitchen.

Wow - I kinda got busy there for a bit - I got to go back to work in the office where I used to work, and had a blast, but then all of my usual work and housework got behind, and the September schedule insanity kicked in - our family was actually quadruple-booked one night!!  That's just ridiculous.  The freezer meals came in handy last week, for sure. 

Anyway, I am borrowing a recipe from my heros at Cook's Illustrated - they keep testing when I'd give up and say I can't make it.  This manicotti recipe is FAB, and I will NEVER, EVER stuff a tube of pasta EVER again when I can do it this way.  It's also meatless, which a nice thing to throw into the mix whenever you can.  This dish is great for serving a crowd if you're willing to roll a lot of manicotti, and it freezes great. 

Baked Manicotti from Cook's Illustrated
Serves 6 to 8

"We prefer Barilla no-boil lasagna noodles for their delicate texture resembling fresh pasta. Note that Pasta Defino and Ronzoni brands contain only 12 no-boil noodles per package; the recipe requires 16 noodles. The manicotti can be prepared through step 5, covered with a sheet of parchment paper, wrapped in aluminum foil, and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month. (If frozen, thaw the manicotti in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.) To bake, remove the parchment, replace the aluminum foil, and increase baking time to 1 to 1 1/4 hours."

Tomato Sauce
• 2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes (in juice)
• 2tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 3medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
• 1/2teaspoon hot red pepper flakes , optional
• Table salt
• 2tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Cheese Filling and Pasta
• 3 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
• 4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
• 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese (about 2 cups)
• 2 large eggs , lightly beaten
• 3/4teaspoon table salt
• 1/2teaspoon ground black pepper
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
• 16 no-boil lasagna noodles (see note above)

1. For the Sauce: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Pulse 1 can tomatoes with their juice in food processor until coarsely chopped, 3 or 4 pulses. Transfer to bowl. Repeat with remaining can tomatoes.  (I use my trusty immersion blender here!)

2. Heat oil, garlic, and pepper flakes (if using) in large saucepan over medium heat until fragrant but not brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Stir in basil; adjust seasoning with salt.

3. For the cheese filling: Combine ricotta, 1 cup Parmesan, mozzarella, eggs, salt, pepper, and herbs in medium bowl; set aside.

4. To assemble: Pour 1 inch boiling water into 13 by 9-inch broilersafe baking dish, then add noodles one at a time. Let noodles soak until pliable, about 5 minutes, separating noodles with tip of sharp knife to prevent sticking. Remove noodles from water and place in single layer on clean kitchen towels; discard water in baking dish and dry baking dish.

5. Spread bottom of baking dish evenly with 1 1/2 cups sauce. Using soupspoon, spread 1/4 cup cheese mixture evenly onto bottom three-quarters of each noodle (with short side facing you), leaving top quarter of noodle exposed. Roll into tube shape and arrange in baking dish seam side down. Top evenly with remaining sauce, making certain that pasta is completely covered.

6. Cover manicotti with aluminum foil. Bake until bubbling, about 40 minutes, then remove foil. Remove baking dish, adjust oven rack to uppermost position (about 6 inches from heating element), and heat broiler. Sprinkle manicotti evenly with remaining 1 cup Parmesan. Broil until cheese is spotty brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Cool 15 minutes, then serve.

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