Better late than never, am I right?
One of my least favorite meals growing up was lasagna. Somehow I was the one kid that didn’t think gooey cheesy messy towers of pasta were a good idea. What was I thinking!? I decided a couple months ago to give the old classic another shot and man do I love lasagna now! I think the problem was the ricotta cheese. Used to hate it but now I’m obsessed with the stuff! I purposely buy the largest container possible when shopping to make lasagna just so I have to find some more recipes to use it in. Watching the Food Network one day and seeing this recipe got me excited to try a stuffed pasta dish as a fun variation. Now I followed this recipe very loosely. I made the fonduta sauce mostly as described (I used Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese instead of the Romano) so I won’t add the details of that here but it was simple and really made this manicotti extra creamy and special. Definitely keeping that in the back of my mind.
- Heavy Cream
- Fresh Basil
- Fresh Parsley
- Olive Oil
- Sweet Italian Sausage
- Manicotti Shells
- Marinara Sauce
- Mozzarella Cheese
- Parmesan Cheese
Somehow I missed taking my ingredient photo so we’ll just get started.
Get a nice big pot and cook your manicotti (I think this would be perfect for stuffed shells as well) according to the package then drain and let cool off. Mine got a little stuck together since I let them sit for a while after, I would add a little olive oil to the water next time. I totally forgot that step until I tried to peel them apart 30 minutes later.
Here’s my Fonduta sauce in the works:
Soften your onions in a little olive oil for a few minutes and then begin browning the sausage. I did one chicken and one pork Italian sausage and I actually really liked the combo. I’ve never used sausage in the casing before….a little bit gross to peel it out of there and get it in the pan but I managed and it’s nice that it has so much flavor already in the meat. You need to break it up with your spoon/spatula to get it into smaller pieces.
Season with salt and pepper then add some sliced mushrooms and chopped garlic.
Once those are nicely browned, season again and then add a bit of frozen spinach (or fresh if you prefer and have some on hand). I also threw in one of my parsley muffins here.
As soon as the greens are no longer frozen, add some of your fonduta sauce and a big ol’ plop of ricotta.
After I stirred this all in, it just did not look even close to being creamy and cheesy enough for me so I added more! And some parmesan.
I probably about doubled the amount they used in the recipe but again, it mainly just gave me the idea to go off of and the sauce recipe but as you can see, I changed most everything else. Next step is to assemble! First coat the bottom of your pan with your favorite marinara sauce.
Then stuff your manicotti with that delicious filling. The instructions here say to ‘spoon’ it in but that just doesn’t work out too good for me. I always end up breaking the shells or not getting the filling all the way in the middle so I applied something I do every day working in a bakery. Take a large ziplock bag and open it to fold the top edges over your hand, spoon the filling in (let it cool off a bit first!) and seal it up.
Cut off a little bit of one corner.
Then just squeeze it right into your shells. Please ignore the giant mess on the counter…
Line them all up in your baking dish.
Cover with some more marinara sauce and then spread out the rest of the fonduta over the top.
Top it with cheese (Mozzarella and Parmesan) and drizzle a little olive oil on top.
Then bake! (350 for about 30 minutes or until it’s super hot and bubbly)
Look at the layer of cheese on top. Oh so good.