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I must admit, I could eat pasta nearly every day and would never tire of it. Whether dried or fresh, it lends itself to so many dishes and it’s this versatility that allows the same ingredient to go from an elegant yet simple capellini with fresh tomatoes and capers to macaroni n cheese. From lobster ravioli to minestone soup or spaghetti smothered in chili, it’s all fantastic and quite different. So when I had a urge for pasta again, I couldn’t quite decide on what kind.
After mulling over numerous ideas in my head, I still was no closer to a dinner recipe. That’s when it hit me. I’m being a dork. How many people stress over coming up with the “perfect” recipe for dinner. So I reverted back to my old standby; my 5 year old daughter Lindsay. “What do you want for dinner sweetie? I was thinking some kind of pasta.” She replied, “How ’bout stuffed shells Daddy.” And as always, her suggestion was pure genius. While not stuffed shells, she had given me the perfect idea. Enjoy!
I started by removing the casings from 1 pound of Italian sausage and browning it a pan with a tablespoon of olive oil until cooked about 8 minutes. I pulsed the cooked sausage in my food processor to mince it up and transferred it to a bowl.
I made up a batch of My Basic Marinara and added the reserved sausage to it then let the whole thing gently simmer on low for about 1 1/2 hours with the lid askew to vent.
This is what it looked like when done.
I was in such a rush, I completely blanked on taking pictures of the cheese mixture. Again-I’m a dork. To my food processor I added 1 cup grated mozarella and 1 cup grated fontina then whirled it to combine and chop up smaller. I added 2 beaten eggs, 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ground white pepper, 1/3 cup chopped basil, 2 large pinches kosher salt and a 15 ounce container ricotta cheese and whirled it again until everything was incorporated, scraping down the sides as needed. I transferred it to a bowl then filled a pastry bag with the mixture to pipe into the pasta shells. I cooked the manicotti shells i n salted waterfor 6 minutes then plunged them into cold water to stop the cooking then set them on a towel to drain.
I ladled about a cup of the ragú into the bottom of a pan (this was 10×12 but 9×13 is fine), then filled the shells with cheese mixture using the pastry bag and set in the pan. If you don’t have a pastry bag, fill a resealable gallon bag with the mixture and cut off one corner.
I spooned about 2 cups of ragú over and around the shells and topped them with another cup of grated mozarella. I covered them with foil that I coated with cooking spray and baked them for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. After 30 minutes, I removed the foil, increased the heat to 400 degrees and baked another 10 minutes.
And here’s the outcome thanks to Lindsay. Enjoy!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound mild Italian sausage with the casings removed
- 1 recipe My Basic Marinara from this site
- 2 cups grated mozarella divided
- 1 cup grated fontina
- 2 eggs beaten
- 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ⅓ cup basil chopped
- 2 pinches kosher salt
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 1 package manicotti shells
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a wide pan over medium high and a add the sausage breaking it into chunks. Cook for 8-10 minutes until done then place the cooked sausgae in a food processor and pulse until minced. Remove to a bowl. Prepare the marinara and add the reserved sausage. Simmer on low for 1½ hours with the lid slightly askew to vent stirring periodically to prevent scorching.
- Cook the pasta shells in salted water for 6 minutes then plunge them into cold water to stop the cooking then drain on a towel.
- Add 1 cup of mozarella and 1 cup fontina to a food processor and pulse to grate it up finer. Add the eggs, white pepper, nutmeg, basil, salt and ricotta. Pulse until well combined scraping down the sides as needed. Transfer to a bowl. Spread 1 cup of the ragú over the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Spoon the cheese mixture into a pastry bag and pipe it into the cooked shells to fill and place into the pan. Spoon 2 cups of the ragú over and around the shells then top with the remaining 1 cup mozarella.
- Cover with foil that's been coated with cooking spray and cook in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the foil, increase the heat to 400 degrees and bake another 10 minutes.