Chris' Recipes

Bon Appetite!

Manicotti with Zucchini and Ground Meat

Written By: Chris - Feb• 21•14

Ever since I learned how to make Pete’s wonderful fresh Italian tomato and garlic sauce, I’ve been thinking about what I can prepare with it!  I happen to have some Manicotti pasta on hand in the pantry, which are very large pasta tubes usually ridged, that are intended to be stuffed (filled) then baked topped with a traditional Italian white or red sauce.  Traditionally, the filling is ricotta cheese mixed with cooked chopped spinach which may or may not include ground meat.  I winged it based on the ingredients I had around the house and replaced the spinach with chopped zucchini!  I prepared this dish similarly to what I would put into lasagna layers or stuffed large shell noodles.  Hot pasta bring us great comfort and since it makes plenty, I decided to prepare it for friends Jeff and MaryAnn who were joining us for dinner recently!  The filling is simple and delicious!

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Ingredients:

1 pound Ground Chicken
1 pound Ground Beef
1 Onion, chopped
Zucchini, medium chopped fine
1 Egg, slightly beaten
1/4 Cup Sharp Parmesan Cheese, grated
1 Cup Mozzarella, shredded
1/2 Cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1/4 Cup Ricotta
1 Cup Cottage Cheese, drained and pressed – because I was short of Ricotta
2 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning, dried
1 Tablespoon Oregano, fresh chopped
2 Tablespoons Balsil, fresh chopped
2 Tablespoons Basil Pesto
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Prepared Tomato Sauce

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Chop herbs, onion and zucchini.

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Cook ground meats with onions and drain.

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Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions, adding a tablespoon of oil so they don’t stick until el detente.  Set aside on parchment paper until you are ready to fill.

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Because I didn’t have enough ricotta cheese, I pressed cottage cheese through a strainer after the liquid had been drained.

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In a large bowl, mix zucchini, cheese (not the cheddar), egg, herbs, seasonings and salt and pepper. Stir together until well blended.  Add cooled meat to the mixture.

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Place about a cup of the tomato or marinara sauce in a baking dish.  Spread it around to cover the bottom.  Either place the mixed filling into a piping bag or simply use a spoon along with a long handled spoon to help push the filling into the pasta.  Hold a cooked manicotti shell in your hand and place the filling inside the shell.  Allow it overflow on both sides.

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Place the filled shell into the sauce-lined pan.  Repeat with remaining manicotti and fill the pan with the stuffed shells, until you run out of shells and filling.  You should be able to fill 12 to 14 shells. (I made a second pan to freeze for a future meal) 

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Cover the pasta with your tomato marinara sauce, using about two to three cups of sauce.   (I got carried away, but I recommend NOT covering the ends of the pasta, because once baked, they are hard to separate!  You can use less sauce.)  Sprinkle additional shredded shredded and mozzarella cheese on top.  Cover with foil and bake for at least 50 minutes or until hot through.  Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and browned.

Enjoy!
Cheers!
~Chris

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