February 15, 2008

There’s not much better than big tubes of pasta oozing with cheese. This is great to freeze and take to someone who just had a baby. Or surgery. Or both.

1/2 lb ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 26 oz jar spaghetti sauce
1 T sugar

15 oz ricotta cheese
1 8 oz block cream cheese, softened
1/4 c sour cream
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
parsley flakes

1 package (8 oz) Manicotti

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Lay flat on foil to cool. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown ground beef with onion and pepper, drain. Stir in spaghetti sauce, sugar, oregano and basil (I just shake some in). In a medium bowl mix together ricotta, cream cheese, sour cream, and half the mozzarella. Add oregano and parsley flakes, salt and pepper (again, just eyeball it). Once well combined, spoon into a ziploc bag. Snip the corner and squeeze the cheese mixture into cooled manicotti tubes. Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 pan (7×11 for half the tubes), arrange filled pasta in a single layer over sauce. Cover with remaining sauce. Cover with the foil you used to cool the manicotti tubes. Bake 30-40 minutes. Remove foil, cover with remaining half of mozzarella cheese, bake 10-15 minutes longer.

*The instructions on the box say to spoon the cheese mixture into the manicotti tubes. They are dumb. Do not do it this way. It is hard, it doesn’t work, it’s frustrating, and it takes forever. Squeeze it in like I described. You’ll thank me for this.

*Since the basement dwellers were eating out tonight, I prepared half of the manicotti for the freezer. To do this, do not cook half the manicotti. Line a 7×11 baking dish with extra heavy foil, spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom. Take the uncooked tubes and fill them with the cheese mixture. Arrange filled, uncooked tubes in a single layer over sauce. Cover with remaining sauce. Cover with extra heavy foil. Write cooking instructions on the foil with a sharpie (refrigerated pasta 350 for 40-50 minutes, frozen pasta 350 for 1 1/2 hours. Remove foil the last ten minutes, top with cheese, and return to oven.). Place remaining cup of mozzarella cheese in a ziploc sandwich bag and tape to the top. Put the whole pan in the freezer. Once it is frozen, take the foil package out of the baking dish and return the manicotti to the freezer. When you thaw/bake the manicotti, just put it back in the baking dish (foil and all).

We may eat the frozen one, or I may take it to my sister-in-law since she had her baby early this morning. We’re so glad Ksenia finally made it!

*No Boil Method
Prepare as directed above EXCEPT:
DO NOT cook pasta before filling tubes.
For sauce, stir together sauce and 1 cup water; heat to boiling. Use heated sauce in preparing dish.
Bake at 400 Degrees.

By Becky

Becky is a mom to 4 kiddos and wife to an awesome guy. She's a food fanatic and loves creating and improving recipes. Bread is her weakness and delicious food is her passion!