With Autumn fast approaching, it’s time for some comfort food and for me, one of my favorite feel-good dishes is Manicotti. Manicotti shells stuffed with a delicious blend of cheeses and ground beef, baked in a tasty tomato sauce is hard to beat, and this recipe is one of the best.
In fact, it is aptly named, Best Manicotti.
This recipe is pretty simple to make, great to eat, and guaranteed to give you that eye-closing m-mm response with the first bite.
I’ve also tossed in a deliciously simple recipe for some great tasting wedding cookies.
Now I realize that some people shy away from baking Manicotti because stuffing those elongated shells can be a pain. However, I have a little trick for filling those tender tubes that makes it so much easier than stuffing them with a spoon that often tears the pasta and causes so much frustration. I’m surprised I hadn’t thought of it before.
I’ll tell you my magic secret at the end of the recipe when it is stuffing time.
So, without anymore banter, here is the recipe.
1 lb. ground beef
2 cloves garlic (or minced equivalent)
2 cups cream-style cottage cheese
8 oz. shredded Mozzarella
16 manicotti shells cooked and drained according to the pkg directions
1-32 oz. jar of spaghetti or pasta sauce (I sprinkle in a little sugar to cut the acidic taste)
1-teaspoon of oregano and a little basil if you like (cooking is about personal tastes)
Brown the beef along with the garlic in a skillet until crumbly then drain
Combine the cottage cheese, mozzarella, mayo and oregano in a medium bowl and mix well
Fold in the hamburger to the mix
The standard method at this point is to stuff the shells and then place the manicotti in a single layer-baking dish that has been lightly greased. However, with my method, that tedious task of carefully stuffing the shells is a thing of the pasta…I meant past.
Here’s the trick
Instead of trying to place your cheese/meat mixture in them with a long teaspoon or some such instrument, slice the manicotti open (lengthwise) and lay it down in the baking dish sliced side up. Now you can easily spoon the mixture onto it. When it’s filled with how ever much you want to put in (usually ¼ cup each), merely turn the manicotti over in the dish. As it cooks, it seals the pasta and the only difference you’ll ever notice is the ease with which you were able stuff them. Pretty clever huh?
*Place manicotti in a single layer into the greased baking dish
*You should have some mixture left over. Top the manicotti with the remaining mixture and pour the spaghetti sauce over it all.
Bake covered at 350 degrees for 15 minutes; then uncover and bake another 10 minutes or so
Sprinkle with Parmesan, salt and pepper to taste
Serve with a salad and some good bread.
There is nothing like a little sweetness after dinner to top off a great meal, so here is a simply delicious recipe for one of my favorites, wedding cookies. Yum!
Amazingly Simple Wedding Cookies
4 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of vanilla extract [Did you know you can make your own vanilla? I’ll tell you how next week]
2 cups of flour
2/3 cup of ground almonds
Cream together the first three ingredients. Add the flour and ground almonds. Roll in plastic wrap and chill for about an hour. Chill the dough too. Ha! Slice the dough about a ¼-inch thick. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until brown.
While still warm, roll the cookies in powdered sugar. Pig out.
And there you have, dinner and dessert.