This recipe from Cook’s Illustrated is seriously fantastic. And because it uses lasagne noodles, rather than manicotti shells, it’s not quite so labor-intensive. One warning though – don’t try making it on a hot day!

Meat Sauce
1 onion, chopped
6 oz sliced deli pepperoni
1 lb 85% ground beef
1 T tomato paste
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 t red pepper flakes (optional)
salt & pepper

Cheese filling
3 c ricotta
2 1/2 c shredded mozzarella (Lucerne makes a mozzarella-provolone blend that works great)
1 1/2 c shredded provolone
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/4 c finely chopped fresh basil

16 no-boil lasagne noodles – Barilla, if you can get them

Grind the pepperoni and onion in a Cuisinart, then add the ground beef. Saute the mixture about 5 minutes. Remove 1 c of the beef mixture to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Make the tomato sauce: Add the tomato paste, garlic and red pepper flakes (if using) to the beef mixture and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes and simmer 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Make the cheese filling: Beat the egg in a large bowl. Add the rest of the cheese filling ingredients (except for 1/2 c of mozzarella and 1/2 of provolone), as well as the 1 c of reserved meat and combine.

You can make everything up to this point and store in the refrigerator up to 3 days.

Put the 16 lasagne noodles in a 13×9 inch pan and cover with boiling water for 5 minutes, to soften them. Meanwhile, pour half the meat mixture into the bottom of a different 13 x 9 inch pan. (If you have two pans).

manicotti rollWhen the noodles are pliable, carefully remove them (using a metal spatula works well) and lay them out on a clean dish towel to drain.

Shape 1/4 c of cheese filling into a fat sausage shape and lay at one end of a noodle. Repeat with all the noodles.

Then roll each noodle up and place it, seam side down, on the meat mixture in the pan. Pour the rest of the meat sauce over the rolls.

manicotti6

 

Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.

Uncover, sprinkle with remaining 1 c of cheese, and bake for another 5 minutes.

Make sure and let it rest for 15 minutes before serving!!


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