Editor's Note: So sorry no pictures :)
About a month ago, hubs and I hosted our first big Shabbat dinner here. It was wonderful. I put a lot of thought and love into deciding on the menu and cooking for the evening. We had (hope I can remember everything:)
*Crostini with Trader Joe's Bruschetta as people were arriving
*Manicotti from here
*Mixed greens salad with yellow and orange bell peppers, pomegranate seeds, something nutty, and a bunch of other yummy stuff I can't remember.
*Sauteed Greens and Mediterranean Orzo Salad from Capella, the natural foods store down the block. Andy ran out to get these at the last minute because we were afraid there wouldn't be enough food. Good call, they were the perfect complement.
*Lemon-blueberry cake (for another post)
Doh. This post was supposed to be about manicotti. Fail. Oh well, it was a wonderful evening with great food and even better company. I was glowing at the end of the night, and hoping for many, many more joyous Shabbats and other occasions to be held in our home. Schmanyways, while planning out this marvelous evening and deciding I wanted to make manicotti, I used Foodblogsearch.com, a clueless Amy's best friend, and found this recipe.
I had heard about America's Test Kitchen from our neighbor last year, but it still seemed kind of mystical and untouchable (read: you have to pay for it) to me. After making this manicotti, oh boy, am I a believer. Basically the concept behind ATK (I believe) is that a group of food scientists takes all the known recipes for a certain dish and, using the principles of science (I'm being generic on purpose), tweaks it until they find the absolute best, most foolproof, fine-tuned version of that dish...then they publish it. Someone correct me if I'm wrong. Just checked, I'm pretty much right.
This is their version of manicotti. I've made it twice now (once for that Shabbat dins and once for the crowd at the lake last week), and both times it was a huge hit. It got a lot easier to make the second time around, and I think I'll improve my speed each time. It's a great thing to make to feed a lot of hungry mouths, and who doesn't like pasta, sauce, and lots of cheese? At the lake, I made garlic bread and grilled veggies (I prepped, Eric grilled) as sides.
I have one more thing to say about this manicotti. The sauce alone is my favorite part. I can't wait to use just the sauce part of the recipe in the winter when I'm craving tomatoes. Use the big ones from Trader Joe's with the basil.
Without further ado, here is the recipe, via Urban Drivel
Stuffed Manicotti ATK
2 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 medium garlic cloves minced
pinch red pepper flakes
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
ground black pepper
24 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese (about 3 cups)
4 ounces Parmesan cheese grated (about 2 cups)
10 ounces whole milk mozzarella cheese shredded (about 2 1/2cups)
2 large eggs lightly beaten
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves
16 no boil flat lasagna noodles
1. Pulse the tomatoes with their juices one can at a time, in a food processor until coarsely chopped with pieces measuring about 1/4 inch, about 3 pulses, set aside.
2. Heat the oil, garlic and pepper flakes in a large saucepan over medium heat until fragrant but not brown, 1-2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and 1/2 tsp salt, and simmer until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil, season with salt and pepper; set aside.
3. Stir the ricotta, 1 cup of the Parmesan, 2 cups of the mozzarella, eggs, parsley, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper together; set aside.
4. Pour 1 inch of boiling water into a 13 by 9 inch baking dish and slip the noodles into the water, 1 at a time. Let the noodles soak until pliable, about 5 minutes, separating the noodles with the tip of a knife to prevent sticking. Remove the noodles from the water and place in a single layer over clean kitchen towels. Discard the water in the baking dish and pat it dry.
5. Spread 1 1/2 cups of the sauce over the bottom of the baking dish. Use a soup spoon to spread 1/4 cup of the ricotta cheese mixture evenly over the bottom three-quarters of each noodle. Roll the noodles up around the filling, and lay seam side down in the baking dish. Spoon the remaining sauce evenly over the noodles, covering the pasta completely. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and mozzarella.
6. Cover with foil sprayed with non stick spray and bake in a 400 degree oven until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted, about 30-40 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the cheese is browned in spots 25-30 minutes.