Thursday, May 21, 2009

Baked Manicotti

There was a great article in the March issue of Saveur about Italian-American food in Atlantic City, New Jersey. In the article, Tony’s Baltimore Grill and Angelo’s Fairmont Tavern were mentioned. These long-standing, local restaurants were described as now being overshadowed by new hotels and casinos, but "are among the few remaining vessels of the city’s soul." The article included the recipe for Angelo’s marinara sauce, veal parmesan, and baked manicotti. I’ve made all sorts of other baked pastas including stuffed shells but never manicotti, so I decided it was time to try it. I don’t know much about Atlantic City, and I’ve never even visited the state of New Jersey, so I checked in with Stacey at Stacey Snacks, and she told me this:

"Atlantic City has two really great Italian-American restaurants, but I haven't tried them. My Italian sister in law makes the BEST homemade manicotti... too bad my brother divorced her! Here in New Jersey, we say MAN-EE-GAUT. It's slang native to NJ."
I know I can't pull off a New Jersey accent, I still haven’t even acquired a Texas accent, but I had high hopes for making manicotti. I took a look at Angelo’s menu on their web site, and the cheese manicotti is served with your choice of meatball or sausage. In the magazine, it was shown as is with no meat which was fine with me. First off, I made the sauce which was lighter than I expected. Minced garlic, a bay leaf, and finely chopped onions were sauteed in a large saucepan. Whole, canned tomatoes were coarsely chopped in a food processor and then added to the saucepan. Dried oregano joined the mix, and I used fresh thyme because I didn’t have any dried. This was cooked over medium heat for 20 minutes until slightly thickened, and then fresh parsley was added.


To prepare the manicotti, you could boil them for about half the recommended cooking time, but I chose to follow a Barefoot Contessa tip. For making lasagna or stuffed shells, I do as Ina taught me and soak the pasta in a bowl filled with hot tap water for 15 to 20 minutes. The pasta becomes pliable enough to fill and is prevented from being overcooked in the end. The manicotti filling was started by cooking eight cloves of minced garlic, yes eight, in butter. That’s a good start. The garlic was added to ricotta, grated parmesan, chopped parsley, freshly grated nutmeg, and eggs. This was combined and spooned into the manicotti tubes. Next time I make this, I may actually put the filling in a piping bag and squeeze it into the manicotti because the spooning method was messy to say the least. I always think transferring something into a bag is going to take forever so I avoid it, but this time it was probably the way to go. Eventually, all the filling was messily spooned into the pasta, and it was ready to be baked. A little sauce went into a baking dish, the filled manicotti were set on that, the remaining sauce was poured on top, it was sprinkled with more parmesan, and it baked for 20 minutes.

Bubbly goodness emerged from the oven. Since the sauce was just chopped tomatoes with no tomato paste to thicken it, it was light and fresh-tasting. The cheese filling was as good as any cheese filling could be. I will be cooking garlic in butter and adding it to all future cheese fillings for pasta. Delicious. Just for fun, I drizzled a little chile oil leftover from the pizza I made on some of the manicotti. I couldn’t resist using the chile oil and of course appreciated the elevated spice level. Food fads come and go but classic Italian-American food is always well-loved, and now I have one more filled pasta recipe in my collection.



39 comments:

  1. Lisa,
    That "maneegawt" looks better than my x-sister in law's...but we won't say a word!
    You can skip Atlantic City, it's not very glamorous, but I hear Angelo's Fairmont Tavern is the place to go....old school red sauce Italian. Too far of a drive for me from Nauth Jersey.

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  2. good tip on the soaking method...I think the accent goes like this --oh never mind stacey said it already..

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  3. This looks sublime! Love the addition of chile oil, and great tip on soaking the pasta!

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  4. Manicotti is just so comforting, now I'm craving it! Thanks for the soaking tip too!

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  5. This looks really excellent! Manicotti is my husband's favorite pasta and I have never made it for him at home. I really should soon!

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  6. Can I have some of that???? Please???

    I love barefoot contessa. That's a really good tip. Thanks!

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  7. Oh... wow! I haven't made manicotti for years. You have inspired me, and this recipe looks amazing!

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  8. It seems a very nice dish, although I would like to know the quantities. Can you please post them?
    Thank you
    and have a very nice weekend

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  9. Yummie yummie for mu tummy,...
    Great food!

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  10. I like Saveur too. This is a super alternative to the normal lasagne we usually have.

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  11. Thanks everyone!

    veredgy: Near the top of the post, there's a link to the recipe on the Saveur site. Here it is again: http://www.saveur.com/article/Food/Baked-Manicotti
    Enjoy!

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  12. texas accents just make a person smile, lisa--keep on trying to acquire one! :)
    and of course, this is a delectable dish. it's the type of thing that improves my mood 100%. :)

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  13. Oh wow - these bring up childhood memories. You did a fabulous job here. The soaking tip is great too.

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  14. I am in serious awe, I did not spend much time in front of the computer yesterday, but in the past two days you managed to knock out two serious wonderful posts. The manacotti sounds out of this world, and the picture only looks better. I must try

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  15. Oh, you've got my number! Though I'm Italian (and live in a city with a bonafide Little Italy) I don't actually make much pasta. I think I like the idea of it better than the reality -- I find it so dense. But this sauce looks rich, full-bodied and flavorful enough to stand up to the noodles. By the way, my city gets "manicotti" right but I won't try to explain how they say "mostaccioli" here....

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  16. I am new to manicotti. If I can find all the ingredients, I will definitely give it a try. Looks so yummy! Irresistable!

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  17. The last photo make me hungry Lisa!

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  18. I've never tried this before-but it looks so good!!

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  19. You said it best...bubbly goodness.

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  20. I love the soaking method vs. pre-cooking the pasta. Seems like it always comes out less "chewy" this way.

    They look awesome, and the chile oil is right up my alley (and looks good in the photo to boot!)

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  21. Lisa, she's a nice-a Man-ee-cott-ee..bravo! Also, just SU'd you.

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  22. I think I remember seeing this article. The manicotti look great, I love baked pasta! Great pictures too.

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  23. I love baked pasta! Great tip on the soaking. And I'll definitely use a piping bag for stuffing pasta. I tried stuffing cannelloni the other day and I broke so many =( and it was quite messy.

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  24. I love pasta baked with lots of cheese topping and plenty of sauce poured-over... Irresistable!

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  25. I love cheesy saucy pasta. This looks amazingly delicious.

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  26. thanks for sharing ina garten's tip with us! I never would have known that.
    your bake looks absolutely scrumptious. CHHEESE!

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  27. You're killing me with this photo! Killing me! In the best of ways, of course. ;)

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  28. I like that the tomato sauce is light ... This looks so inviting :)

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  29. Beautiful meal, we love pastas.

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  30. Never heard of manicotti before (from the little Italian I know it means baked hands ? :) ) or maybe I'm wrong but it sounds delicious.

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  31. I love baked pasta dishes! This looks amazing.

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  32. About a year ago, my husband insisted I buy manicotti tubes from the store and I have yet to use them. All the recipes I see seem rather ho hum. This looks perfect - I'm bookmarking it!

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  33. New Jersey accent is hard, but I'm sure you could convince anyone you're a local with this glorious recipe!
    They look so cheesy and saucy... perfect!

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  34. Thank you so much for yet another great tip: the first was re: making fresh and simple tomato sauce for pizza and now, for preparing the pasta for lasagnas, shells, etc. I could dive right into that first photo!

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  35. oh YUM! And yours looks so much better than Saveur's :)

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  36. my mom made manicotti for me regularly growing up--it's definitely one of my nostalgia foods but I've yet to tackle it myself...this looks like a good place to start!

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  37. I have not had nor made manicotti in forever. Your manicotti looks really truly delicious, Italian and wow that's a lot of garlic. I need to make manicotti really soon. My husband loves it and I don't remember ever making it in our almost 10 years of marriage. Shame on me.

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  38. I have not made this in years, I also like the addition of the chili oil...I might have to roll out the pasta maker on this one!

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