Being sort of a spur-of-the-moment kind of dinner, I pulled out of the freezer a batch of beef and cheese manicotti, adapted from Giada De Laurentiis's recipe. I've made this several times, mostly for company, and the last time I doubled it and froze one entire recipe for a time just like last night. Served as a starter was a delicious spinach and strawberry salad which I tweaked from a recipe by Dana Carpenter of low-carb cookbook fame. For dessert, simple dessert bowls of quartered and sweetened strawberries were drizzled with heavy cream. Greg treated us to a Simi Vineyards chardonnay, 2004 vintage, which was refreshing, crisp and complemented the meal nicely.
Beef and Cheese Manicotti
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis
Yield: 6 servings
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 pound ground beef
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
14 (8-ounce package) manicotti
1 (15-ounce) container whole-milk ricotta
3 cups shredded mozzarella
1 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups marinara sauce
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
Heat a heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, onion and ground beef. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until the meat browns and the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and cool.
Brush 1 teaspoon of oil over a large baking sheet. Cook the manicotti in a large pot of boiling salted water until slightly softened, but still very firm to the bite, about 4 to 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the manicotti from the pot to the oiled baking sheet and cool.
Meanwhile, combine the ricotta, 1 1/2 to 2 cups mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan, and parsley. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper to taste, and mix. Stir the cooled meat mixture into the cheese mixture.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Brush the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil over a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Spoon 1 1/2 cups of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish. Fill the manicotti with the cheese-meat mixture. Arrange the stuffed pasta in a single layer in the prepared dish and spoon the remaining sauce over.
Sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese, then the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan over the stuffed pasta. Dot entire dish with the butter pieces. Bake the manicotti uncovered until heated through and the sauce bubbles on the sides of the dish, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let the manicotti stand 5 minutes and serve.
SPINACH AND STRAWBERRY SALAD
In small food processor combine:
1/2 cup Splenda
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced red onion
1 teaspoon paprika
dash cayenne or to taste
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Add to the above:
1 1/2 teaspoons poppy seed
Use above to dress:
1 pound pre-washed baby spinach
Top with :
1 cup sliced strawberries
Crumbled goat cheese
OPTIONAL: Alton Brown's PICKLED BEETS