I have a confession. I don't like ricotta cheese. Which is proof that just anyone can be a food blogger, right? But there's something about the texture that I don't care for, especially when it's intermingled with a red sauce. (This is why I use cottage cheese in my lasagna.)
In fact, I tend to avoid most cheese-filled pasta. Most have ricotta, and even using cottage cheese as a substitute tastes a bit overwhelming to me. The exception is cheese tortellini, which seems to have a higher pasta-to-cheese ratio. Or perhaps I'm just overthinking this whole thing.
Anyway, I've given manicotti a fair shake -- both in restaurants and at home -- and it's just never really been my thing. But the other day, I was flipping through a church cookbook, looking for a specific recipe by a specific person, when I stumbled upon this recipe, by the specific person's daughter -- Michelle. Michelle is the office manager at the hubby's office, and we all adore her. And now we all adore her manicotti.
Michelle had the idea to stuff the manicotti with string cheese instead of a goopy cheese mixture. I think it was in the interests of being faster, but I much prefer the taste of this version, as well. And boy, are those shells a lot easier to stuff.
Depending on how saucy and meaty you want your manicotti, use anywhere between 1-1 1/2 pounds of ground beef, and 1-2 jars of spaghetti sauce. I think I'm .... about 1 1/2 pounds meaty and 1 1/2 jars saucy.
Makes 6-8 servings
1 8-ounce package manicotti pasta
1-1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion (optional)
1-2 26-ounce jars spaghetti sauce
14 pieces string cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9“ by 13” pan, or spray it with cooking spray.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions.
3. Meanwhile, cook ground beef in a skillet with onion. (Optionally, sprinkle beef with onion salt.) Drain, if necessary, and then add spaghetti sauce.
4. Spread half the sauce in the bottom of the pan.
5. Run manicotti under cold water so you can handle it, and then insert a piece of string cheese in each manicotti tube. Place manicotti in pan (you’ll probably need to squeeze them tight).
If the manicotti tubes split, no biggie. Just put the split side on the bottom.
6. Top with remaining sauce.
7. Cover with foil and bake 25-30 minutes, or until heated through.
8. Remove from oven and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake, uncovered, 5-10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.