Manicotti, Italian for "sleeve" is traditionally a savory stuffing of ricotta cheese, meat and rolled in a rectangular pasta sheet and covered in a tomato or bechamel sauce. For years, I have been cramming cheese filling into a raw, uncooked manicotti noodle, adding extra water to my canned tomato sauce and calling it "manicotti."
Well, no more. This is IT. The recipe that we will keep. It has a surprising ingredient. Wanna know what it is? This...
Yep. Pepperoni! If you think about it, my Marvelous Meatball recipe has a mix of sausage and ground beef, so why not this recipe?
The pepperoni slices are put into a food processor with some onion and coarsely ground.
Lean ground beef is added...
and pulsed till fully combined.
The mixture is transferred into a saucepan and cooked for about five minutes. One cup of the cooked mixture is put on a paper towel to drain. This will be used in the filling.
Instead of taking the rest of the meat out, I just tilted the pan and put a folded paper towel in to soak up the rest of the fat.
To the drained ground beef, tomato paste is added. Are you tired of using only a wee bit of tomato paste and throwing the rest out? Check out my earlier post on freezing tomato paste.
Garlic....I freeze my garlic and put it through a press. Minces it up perfectly.
A dash of red pepper flakes, anyone? The great thing about cooking your own dishes....you can adjust the heat!
Stir in crushed tomatoes...
and simmer till thickened. Can you smell it now?
Now it's time to make the filling. I cannot for the life of me fine shredded Provolone. It's always in slices, so this bag of Italian Five Cheeses added to ricotta works for me.
One large egg is beaten and added to hold everything together.
Don't forget to add the one cup of meat to the cheese!
By this time, the sauce is ready. Put half of it into a 9x13 baking dish.
Get ready to fill the pasta dough. I made my own dough, but you can use some Barilla No-Boil Lasagne noodles. Just soak them in warm water for 5 minutes and they are ready to use! If you use homemade pasta, you do not have to cook it...
Put 1/4 cup of cheese filling on each square...
Roll 'em up...
and put them seam side down into the pan!
After rolling all the manicotti, put the rest of the sauce on top.
Cover the pan with foil and bake. At the end of baking, remove the foil, sprinkle some cheese on top and bake an additional 5 minutes.
Let the dish cool for 15 minutes. Cooling is important! It allows the dish to thicken, set and makes the manicotti easier to dish out.
There you have it!
The food that will make its way to YOUR heart!
Baked Manicotti with Meat Sauce
(4x6 recipe download) (full page printable recipe)