I have never made this particular dish before, but as it’s a variation on the tomato sauce/cheese/pasta theme, it didn’t strike me as anything particularly difficult. Plus I’d watched Cook’s Country (Cook’s Magazine) on Sunday making this dish, albeit using a recipe I wouldn’t touch (beef in the sauce! Beef in the cheese! Not in my house!) AND I’d just purchased a new toy AND I had some of the ingredients in my fridge already. And, you know. Meatless Monday. Although meat would probably have less fat and cholesterol.
The Cook’s Country people did something that looked like fun – instead of stuffing the filling into precooked manicotti cylinders, they soaked no-boil lasagna noodles in hot water and rolled them around it. So I bought some of them.
I made my basic pasta sauce – diced onion, red pepper, garlic, oregano, bay leaves, vinegar and tomato paste, plus water to make it work. I normally leave it chunky, which I think works well for both a spaghetti sauce (for which I usually add mushrooms and meat) and for a lasagna/baked ziti sauce (for which I will add spinach and maybe zucchini.) For that matter, it’s a decent base for East Coast style chili, with beans and spices.
I avoid canned and jarred sauces as much as I possibly can, although small cans of tomato sauce have their uses.
For this dish, I thought a smooth sauce would work better. AND I have a new toy. I just got a stick blender with a food chopper attachment. I have a regular blender. Somewhere. It was a wedding present. It’s still in the original box, with the original string around it. I got married over 21 years ago. Yeah.
But I wanted to play, and thought this would work well and be fun. And I was right on both counts. The sauce came out like velvet (I did remove the bay leaves) and the attachment was both fun and easy enough to clean.
I made the filling out of full-fat ricotta cheese leftover from a pasta dish I made last week, plus some new fatfree ricotta, plus an egg, fresh minced garlic, oregano, pepper and finely shredded cheddar and mozzarella mixture that my husband bought in case I wanted to make an omelet for lunch yesterday. (I made salami and eggs instead.)
Layer of my lovely sauce on the bottom of the pan, then I rolled the nicely flexible lasagna around the filling and made five (that’s when the filling ran out) manicotti. I poured the rest of the sauce over that, and covered the top with more cheese. It’s in the oven now, cooking slowly. I’m serving it with salad.