I'm not exactly sure where I cooked up this little recipe. Oh, I remember. I was eating short rib stuffed cannelloni at this Italian restaurant called Maggiano's and I nearly fell off my chair. Partly because it tasted amazing and partly because I came to the realization that I can stuff pasta with whatever I want.
Enter: Sausage and Cheese Stuffed Manicotti. If God smoked cigars they would look like this.
This recipe is pretty easy. Ok, here we go:
1 Box of Manicotti
1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella
1 Lb of Spicy Italian Sausage
1-1/2 Cups of Freshly Shredded Parmesan (loosely packed)
1 8 Oz Container of Mascarpone
1/4 Teaspoon of Garlic Powder
1 24 Oz Jar of Good Tomato Sauce
2 Tbs of Panko Bread Crumbs (not pictured)
Cook and crumble the sausage until it's nice and brown. If you don't like spice you can use mild Italian sausage. Want to be healthy? (read: lame) use ground turkey. Don't like meat? We'll have to conference in Caitlin for that.
Once the sausage is cooked through, drain it on lots of paper towels. I forgot to do that and the dish came out a little bit greasy. I would drain the sausage and then even pat it a bit with some more paper t's. Add the sausage to a bowl or back into your drained pan and add the mascarpone. You can usually find mascarpone in the specialty cheese section. If you can't find it, you could substitute with cream cheese.
Cook the manicotti in salted boiling water until just under al dente and then lay them out on a cookie sheet so they don't stick together. They will continue to cook in the oven so we don't want them turning to mush.
So I added most of the mozz before I realized I forgot to capture this step so I sprinkled some extra mozz so you could see that I was, in fact, adding shredded mozzarella.
So I didn't think I would need breadcrumbs, but the sausage and cheese mixture needed to be a little tighter so the filling would stay in while baking. This was a good move. All I had in the cupboard were Panko breadcrumbs, but any will do. I LOVE garlic, so I also added a bit of garlic powder to this as well.
This step was also impromptu. The mixture was looking a little....beige. So, I added in just the tiniest bit of chopped parsley to freshen it up.
The only way to do this is to get down and dirty and use your hands. Gently stuff the pasta with the sausage mixture. BE CAREFUL These puppies wanted to split down the side. If you cook an entire box, you will have a couple extra left over to play with. I needed those couple extra.
So this is what I mean by good tomato sauce. I would eat a hot dog dipped in cement if Mario Batali told me to. Seriously though, this was good.
So here is a little secret my Mom taught me. Parmesan doesn't melt well...but Sargento's Artisan Blends Parm melts beautifully. It's perfect on top of eggplant parm, baked pastas, well anything really. No one paid me to say that (call me Sargento!!).
...and bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling around the sides and the cheese is melted. This is optional, but I added some chopped parsley as a garnish.