I have always been a foodie. I have fond memories of Easy Bake Ovens and tea parties with leftover pancake sandwiches. Even as a teenager, when, as we all know our focus can become a little obscured, I stayed steady on the food path.
I remember one particular night where we were hanging out with the “gang”, back in the day that’s what we did in small town Canada, my girlfriend and I decided that we were hungry and that we were going to go back to her house to have “something to eat”. Now when you picture “something to eat” for a teenager that usually means Kraft Dinner or Pizza Pops, right? Something that requires the least amount of effort. Not for us. We were food snobs, even then. We were craving something hearty and real.
After perusing the cupboards for possibilities, we decided on making Manicotti at midnight. We gathered the ingredients, took out the pots and pans and thawed the meat in the microwave. We then proceeded to make the Manicotti along with lots of noise and a big mess, I am sure. Her poor mother.
I don’t think that I have actually made Manicotti since that night but it is said that food evokes memories, right? But what about metabolism? Can food bring back your metabolism? The last time I had Manicotti, I was definitely a lot lighter and this pasta diet seems to be working for Giada de Laurentiis as well. So I decided to try her Manicotti recipe and here it is, my new weight loss plan.
|Giada de Laurentiis
Photo by Gavin Bond
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
In a large casserole pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste. (The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.)
Beef and Cheese Manicotti
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 pound ground
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 Parnesan
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups Marinara Sauce (recipe above)
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.