We were having a few friends over for dinner and a couple of them are vegetarians so it makes sense to make a meatless meal. Somebody might arrive late so I also wanted to make something that I could dish out to the late-comer without having to go too much trouble. Manicotti seemed like an obvious choice. I’ve made lots of stuff with marinara sauce so it makes sense to post that recipe as well.

There’s nothing quite like the smell of a pot of slow simmered marinara sauce to welcome people into your home (okay… maybe fresh baked bread is better but I’m making marinara sauce today). You can make the sauce quicker by adding tomato paste but I like this sauce much better when it’s made slow. All you need is time and a little heat to make a truly great marinara sauce.

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I start my marinara sauce with half a medium onion per can of tomatoes. I’m making a large batch of sauce so I used one and a half onions chopped fine. I also chopped up 5 cloves of garlic. The onions go in the pot first with a little olive oil. Once they’ve sweat for a while I add the garlic and cook for another minute or two. Douse the onions and garlic with a cup and a half of white wine and let that simmer for a little bit. I used 3 – 28 oz cans of San Marzano tomatoes. You can crush them by hand but that’s really messy. I prefer to put them in the blender and pulse it a few times just to break up the tomatoes. I don’t run the blender full bore for this. I just want to break the tomatoes up into smaller chunks. They’re going to spend some time on the heat and they’re going to break down so they don’t need to be liquified. The tomatoes go into the pot along with a couple teaspoons of sugar. The sugar is there to help balance out the acid in the tomatoes. Bring it to a gentle boil and then reduce the heat to a slow simmer. Stir it every once in a while. I don’t add salt and basil until near the end of the cooking process. The sauce is going to reduce in volume so if I salt it to taste at the beginning it will likely end up too salty once it’s done cooking. If you think the sauce is too thick when it’s done cooking then you can always add a little more white wine to thin it out a bit.

Ingredients:

3 – 28 oz cans San Marzano tomatoes
1 1/2 medium onions (chopped)
4 cloves Garlic
1 1/2 cup white wine
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp smoked paprika
10 leaves fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste

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The only real secret to making manicotti is not to over cook the pasta. Also… I don’t drain the pasta into a colander. I just put the whole pot in the sink and run cold water into it until the pasta’s cool enough to handle with bare hands. My cheese filling has ricotta cheese, cottage cheese a couple of eggs, olive oil, white wine, garlic powder, fresh basil, salt and pepper. Put some Marinara sauce on the bottom on the baking dish and then stuff the manicotti with the cheese filling. Cover with a little more sauce and cover the dish with tin foil. Bake for about 40 minutes and when it’s just about done remove the foil, cover with cheese and continue baking until the cheese has melted.

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Ingredients:

2 – 225 g packages of manicotti tubes
500 g ricotta cheese
600 g cottage cheese (dry curds)
2 eggs
1/4 cup basil
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

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