Monday, November 19, 2012

Guest Post (FoodFiend): Recipe: Sausage and Cheese Manicotti

Rest assured, FoodFiend has not stopped cooking.

I am on vacation this week, and not responsible for any Thanksgiving cooking besides appetizers (thank you, thetaster and GrandCrubaaa...) so I decided to undertake a sausage manicotti recipe that I knew would be a bit time consuming. It was - abot three hours from start to finish - but FoodFiend's counterpart liked it so much that he pretty much literally licked the skillet I made the sauce in and is now practically singing and dancing while he cleans up my huge kitchen mess with nary a complaint.

Here is the recipe, as published on epicurious, but apparently taken from Bon Appetit in 2003.

Ragù and filling
  • 12 ounces Italian sweet sausages with fennel seeds (about 3 1/2 sausages)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 8 large fresh basil leaves, slivered
  • 2 cups fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese or one 15-ounce container whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup 1/4-inch cubes mild imported provolone cheese (provola) or sharp domestic provolone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 pound manicotti (large tubular pasta)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

For ragù and filling:
Pierce each sausage several times with tip of knife. Place sausages in heavy large saucepan; add onion. Cover; cook over medium-low heat 5 minutes. Turn sausages over; stir onion. Cover and continue to cook until sausages release some fat and onion begins to color, about 5 minutes. Uncover; increase heat to medium. Add wine and simmer until wine evaporates and onion is golden, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Fit food mill directly onto pan. Add tomatoes with juices and puree through mill into pan, leaving only seeds behind and scraping all tomato pulp from underside of food mill into pan; or puree tomatoes with juices in processor, then strain out seeds and add puree to pan. Add crushed red pepper. Simmer very gently over low heat until sauce thickens and reduces to scant 2 cups, stirring sauce and turning sausages occasionally, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Add slivered basil and simmer sauce 5 minutes longer. Using tongs, transfer sausages to plate and cool. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
Place ricotta in medium bowl. Mix in provolone cubes, 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan, and black pepper. Cut sausages into 1/4-inch cubes; stir into cheese mixture. Season filling to taste with salt. (Sauce and filling can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately and chill.)

For assembly:
Cook manicotti in large pot of boiling salted water until still somewhat firm to bite and about 3/4 cooked, about 7 minutes (depending on brand). Using tongs, carefully transfer manicotti from pot to foil-lined baking sheet and cool.
Brush olive oil over bottom of 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish; spread 3 tablespoons sauce over. Using teaspoon, fill each of 12 manicotti with about 1/3 cup cheese-sausage mixture. Arrange stuffed pasta in single layer in prepared dish and spoon remaining sauce over. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover with plastic wrap; let stand at room temperature.)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup Parmesan atop sauce. Bake manicotti uncovered until heated through and sauce is bubbling on bottom of dish, about 20 minutes. Let manicotti stand 5 minutes and serve.
Of course I can never make it exactly like it says.
The recipe notes suggested whole milk ricotta, imported provolone, etc. Well, that's all well and good, but FoodFiend is on a budget, and trying not to eat her own weight in calories every day. I didn't have time to truck to Central Market in search of sausage with fennel, and turkey sausage was on sale at Tom Thumb, so I used that. I don't have a food mill, so I got diced tomatoes and liquefied them in the blender. Worked great. I used part-skim ricotta and regular old provolone and parmesan, a la Tom Thumb. I'm sure it would have been even better with the good stuff, but it caused great swooning with the normal stuff.
 During the lengthy simmering process...

Assembled, ready for the oven...

Not my best plating job, but I was in too much of a hurry to eat it!

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