Will is a cheese-a-holic. He asks for it all the time in that cute little voice (“chhhheeeeesssssse”) and it’s always followed with a bit of gratitude (“dank you”) for his favorite food item . . . next to chocolate, of course. Fresh mozzarella is his favorite, but he’s not picky . . . he will eat whatever cheese you want to share. Then again, it’s no wonder that he’s a cheese-lover with the excess of cheese I ate while I was pregnant with him (the same justification applies to the chocolate too . . . geez, and I wonder why I was a whale when I gave birth).
Anyway, knowing that he has a penchant for cheesiness, I had him in mind when I created this dish on the fly this week. Originally, I had planned to make a lasagna with the wonderful, fresh flat sheets of egg noodles I purchased at Costco last week. But lasagna takes a while to cook and it was late. Besides, I was hungry and knew Will would love to eat this for lunch the next day.
So instead I made this lovely tray of manicotti. I love manicotti, particularly when the ricotta is smooth (instead of grainy, like it gets when you overcook it). There’s a great little restaurant in Danbury, Conn., that does it just right called The New Sorrento. Their manicotti is to die for. My husband and I actually had our rehearsal dinner for our wedding there since we loved their manicotti (and chicken parm, too) so much. We still drop by for take out once in a while. In any case, it holds a special place in our hearts.
I modeled this after the manicotti at The New Sorrento, with smooth ricotta and a homemade marinara. You don’t have to make your own marinara, but I do recommend it. (Check back tomorrow for my marinara recipe.)
3 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup Romano cheese, freshly grated
4 cups marinara sauce (divided)
6 sheets of fresh pasta dough (or 6 manicotti shells, cooked according to package directions)
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Romano cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, 1 cup of Romano, and eggs. Mix well until smooth.
Spread 2 cups of marinara sauce in the bottom of a baking pan.
If you are using fresh pasta dough, use a pastry brush to brush the sheets with water on both sides. Spread a generous amount of the ricotta mixture on one end of the pasta sheet. Roll up and place in the baking pan. Repeat with the remainder of pasta sheets.
If you are using manicotti shells, fill each prepared shell with an equal amount of the ricotta mixture and place in the pan.
Top the manicotti with 2 cups of marinara sauce. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup of Romano on top.
Cook for 20-25 minutes, until mozzarella is fully melted.
Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.