quark. I had never made this cheesy pasta dish, and researched several recipes. Aside from stuffing the pasta with ricotta, there seem to be no rules that can't be broken. (So of course I'm breaking that one.) I'm using the quark for ricotta, since that's pretty much what it tastes and looks like, but I'm adding spinach and meat to the filling. I considered making the sauce from scratch, but I just spent three days making cheese. A little shortcut by doctoring up a store-bought sauce can be forgiven.
The method and some of the ingredients for this version rely on Recipe Girl's version. It had never occurred to me to stuff the shells dry. Using a pastry tube to stuff them does seem to be the universal "secret" trick. I never really got the hang of it, and ended up shoving a lot of the filling in using my fingers. Do it over a plate.
I tried, but this was not a budget-saver. The ONLY box of manicotti shells at the market was $2.69, and the side dishes for the meal ended up costing as much as the main dish. If you can find really good Barilla Pasta and cheese coupons, you might be able to do this for under a dollar per serving, but that doesn't include a side salad or garlic bread.
1 box dry manicotti shells (about 12, since at least one is bound to be broken)
1 24oz jar of your favorite tomato-based pasta sauce (I used tomato basil)
8 oz ricotta cheese
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
*1/2 lb ground beef or turkey
6 oz frozen spinach, thawed
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1. In a skillet, cook ground beef completely and break into tiny pieces. Drain off fat and set aside to cool.
2. In a bowl, combine eggs, ricotta, spinach, ground beef, garlic, oregano, basil, and all but 1/2 C of the mozzarella.
3. Pour 1 C of sauce over bottom of 13"x9" casserole. Place filling in 1-gallon plastic bag, seal, and snip off 1/2" of one corner to make a pastry bag. Take one dry pasta tube at a time and fill. It helps to place one finger over the bottom hole, and do it over a plate. Line up shells in pan so that they fit snugly, but have a little room to expand as the pasta cooks.
4. Boil 1/2 C water and pour over manicotti. Pour remaining sauce over the tubes, then sprinkle with reserved cheese. At this point, the dish can be covered with foil and placed in the refrigerator to cook later. Or, preheat oven to 350º while you're stuffing the tubes, cover casserole with foil, and place in oven.
5. Bake until pasta is done, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. The boiling of the sauce cooks the pasta and the eggs in the cheese mixture. Let rest until it stops boiling, then serve hot.
Makes 6 servings
Difficulty rating :-0