Italian Meatball Manicotti

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Italian Meatball Manicotti! Pasta tubes, known as manicotti, are mere vessels for holding melted cheese, savory meat, Italian herbs, and certain vegetables like spinach or mushrooms. The marinara sauce is spread on the bottom of the dish to prevent the pasta from sticking, or tearing, which would ruin the whole idea of creating the perfect pocket of delicious fillings. With a crowning layer of marinara sauce on top, it deserves a round of applause for the extra cheese sprinkled there for good measure. Cray, Cray!

ITALIAN MEATBALL MANICOTTI

Ingredients:

6 dried manicotti shells

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic

12 Italian meatballs, cut in quarters

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herb blend

8 ounces marinara sauce, prepared

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, shredded

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray an 8.5”x5.5” baking dish with nonstick oil. Set aside. Cook manicotti shells in boiling water for 9 minutes. Drain and cool on a baking sheet pan. Set aside. In a skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic clove, meatballs, sea salt, cracked black pepper, and Italian herb blend. Cook until heated through, stirring occasionally. Remove and set aside to cool slightly for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, spread half the marinara sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. In a bowl, mix ricotta cheese and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Gently fold in meatball mixture. Fill each manicotti shell with meat and cheese mixture; place in the prepared baking dish over the marinara layer. Top with remaining marinara sauce. Cover dish with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

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