This is my favorite latest recipe – I adapted from a recipe from Cook’s Country – from the same people that bring you Cook’s Illustrated, which is one of my favorite publications. The secret ingredient in the recipe is the pepperoni – and it really is fabulous! It adds a distinctive spicy, tangy indulgent flavor that is perfect in Italian meat sauce. I stayed pretty close to the recipe but didn’t add as many tomatoes & increased the tomato paste, my meat sauce was thicker which I prefer. You can double the amount of tomatoes if you want a “saucier” version. This is a great weekend meal – it takes about an hour and a half total cook/prep time. I served with garlic bread and salad. Yum! And … like all good Italian food, it gets better with time (i.e. it was good leftover), just like Italian women according to my husband!
- 1 onion, chopped
- 6 ounces pepperoni (I bought the 7 oz. Applegate Pepperoni & just took out a few slices)
- 1 to 1.5 pds lean ground beef (85/15)
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 5 garlic cloves
- Red pepper flakes
- One 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 2 lb container Ricotta cheese
- 1 bag Italian cheese mix (or Mozzarella) – about 3 cups
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup Fresh Basil, finely chopped
- 16 no-boil lasagna noodles (recommend Barilla)
Heat oven to 375.
Pulse onion, garlic, and pepperoni in food processor. You can also add the beef. I, however, have a small FP so I didn’t do this. The beef can break up on its own in the pan – your call.
Cook pepperoni mix & beef in large skillet until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Reserve 1 cup mix on plate lined with paper towels.
Keep the remaining meat mix in skillet. Add tomato paste and pepper flakes (a few generous dashes). Stir. Add tomatoes (don’t drain). Simmer until sauce is thickened and smells delish, about 20 minutes. Season with S/P to taste. Set aside. (NOTE: this can be refrigerated in airtight container for 3 days).
Now prepare filling – in lrg bowl combine ricotta, 2 cups of the cheese, egg, basil, and the 1 cup reserved meat mix.
Place lasagna noodles in the baking dish, lay out and pour enough boiling water over the noodles to cover. Let sit for about 5 mins until they are pliable. Drain noodles on kitchen towel. Pour water out and dry dish.
Now assemble the dish – Spread 1/2 of the meat sauce on the bottom of your baking dish.
Next, spread about 1/4 cup filling onto each noodle (about 1/2 inch from end) and roll up gently. Place seam side into sauced pan. You will have enough filling to use heaping 1/4 cup servings – these will be BIG manicotti!
Spread remaining sauce over noodles. Cover with foil and bake in middle rack until bubbling at edges, about 40 minutes.
Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining cheese, bake another 5 minutes until melted. Let cool about 10 minutes.