Posts Tagged ‘italian’


February 21, 2011

This started as a family recipe, but circumstances (and a lack of respect for traditions and a need to cut corners) conspired to force me to go off-script.

Here is the original recipe:

12 manicotti pasta shells
3/4 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp chopped parsley
1 egg white
2 cups tomato juice
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried basil

Mash ricotta with milk and parsley, add other cheeses, mix. Beat egg white fork until frothy, add to cheese mixture.

Combine tomato juice, tomato paste and spices, cover and cook over low heat for several minutes.

Cook shells in boiling water and drain.

Spoon layer of tomato sauce over bottom of baking dish. Stuff cheese mixture into the shells arrange shells side by side. Top with the remainder of the tomato sauce. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

So much for the instructions. Here is where we meet reality.

The recipe calls for 12 shells, but there are 14 shells in a box. Oops.

So I have to make some adjustments.

Also, timing is important, so here is the workflow:

First, I start the water going. Then I do the tomato sauce.

I hate measuring, in part because it means dirtying yet another dish. I don’t measure the tomato paste, I just use a 12 oz can of tomato paste. I don’t measure the tomato juice, either. I dump the tomato paste into the pan, then slowly pour the thinner tomato juice into the pan, mixing as I go. It is easier (MUCH easier) to thin a thick paste than it is to add a thick paste to a thin juice and try to mix. I pour the juice in until I get a sauce of the consistency that I want. (As an aside, when you heat the sauce, the thicker sauce has a greater likelihood of a big splatter than a thinner sauce.) Then I add the spices, a bit more generously than the recipe describes (partly because I am making more sauce). Also, I use chopped garlic (and quite a bit of it) instead of garlic powder. Then it is time to simmer the sauce.

At some point, the water is boiling and I add the shells.

Once the sauce is simmering, I start on the cheese filling. I don’t know whether the shells I am filling are bigger than the ones used in the original recipe, but even doubling the recipe still leaves an empty shell or two, so I have to go over doubling the filling, so it is more guesswork than measuring. Second, I don’t buy parsley. I don’t use enough of it ever to want to spend the money. So I use oregano. Yes, that is a completely different spice, but it works for us.

The tough part for me is keeping the shells intact when draining. Last night’s dinner only had two intact shells out of the 14. Worst showing ever. Still tastes as good, but still… Anyone with tips on getting them out intact?

The rest is following the instructions – baking dish, sauce, line up the shells, cover with more sauce, and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Then eat!

Even with more than doubling the recipe, the large container that the ricotta cheese comes in still has more cheese left in it, so what to do? I have another recipe coming soon!


Italian Roast Chicken with Potatoes

May 28, 2009

So the other night I accidentally burned my hand on the oven rack while making this meal for my family, so I’m bloging the recipe to get even.  Or something.

Olive Oil
Italian Seasoning
Lemon Juice

So as usual, we use the boneless, skinless frozen chicken breasts, but you can feel free to use whatever chicken pieces you want to.

While I defrost them in the microwave, I’m cutting the potatoes, one to two per person, depending on appetites.  You can cut them into thick chunks, but I prefer smaller chunks (an average potato gets cut into about 40 pieces).  Smaller chunks cook faster and have more surface area to absorb (and carry into your mouth) the flavors of the spices.  I dump them into a 9×14 pan, drizzle some olive oil over them, garlic (I use minced garlic from a jar for speed and consistency, but you can use chopped garlic in a jar or – gasp – chop it up yourself) – about two forkfuls, then mix thoroughly.  Sprinkle on the three spices (Italian seasoning, oregano and basil, in our case bought in bulk) very liberally, mix again and stick in the oven that you pre-heated to about 425.  (You did remember to preheat the oven, didn’t you?  Heh, neither did I…)

Ok, while the spuds are starting to cook, I start working on the chicken.  Take the defrosted chicken (or, if yours wasn’t frozen to begin with, take the chicken out of the refrigerator) and coat with olive oil and lemon juice.  Basically, I use a dinner plate, create a small shallow lake of lemon juice and olive oil in just about equal proportions, and coat the meat with it by rolling the chicken in the mixture.  Then I take another forkful of the minced garlic and smear it all over the chicken breasts.  Minced garlic from the jar is about the right consistency for this.  If you aren’t using that, you could pierce the chicken and stuff garlic bits into the meat, or tuck it under the skin if you aren’t using skinless chicken.

Pull the pan of potatoes out of the oven after its been in about 10 minutes or so (being careful not to burn yourself on the oven rack, unlike myself), and put the chicken pieces on top of the potatoes.  Pour the remaining olive oil/lemon juice mixture over the chicken (as long as you don’t drown the potatoes) and sprinkle the three seasonings heavily on the chicken.

Put it back into the oven until the chicken has cooked thoroughly.  Half an hour or so, depending on the thickness of the chicken pieces.  Be sure to cut the chicken to check it is done through before serving.