So while I’m home recovering I’ve really not had much energy to cook. I’m still pretty weak but being in the kitchen is therapeutic for me. Plus it gets my mind off of stuff you know. Since Mr. Fantabulous is doing almost 100% of the work here at the house and his job I wanted to try to make something for dinner to help out. This to me, while delicious, is super simple to make. Now I did have him help me out as I couldn’t lift the pans but making this was all me. I mean I was tired of letting him have all the fun in the kitchen. That’s my domicile after all. I guess it would be different if he let me play with the power tools then I’d be OK with him touching my All-Clad pots buttttttttttt…
yeah no… I want my kitchen back.
Since I was going simple, nothing is more simple to me than pasta and meatballs however I didn’t want spaghetti. Plus okay I had a container of ricotta in my fridge that I had to use up. Immediately I had to go with a stuffed pasta dish.
I have a few stuffed pasta dishes on here. My Lasagna RollUps and Stuffed Shells are a huge hit so I didn’t want to go with those type of noodles. After digging around in my pantry I found a box of manicotti (which I don’t really remember buying but they weren’t expired so yeah me!). Has that ever happened to you? You go into your pantry or cupboard and find an ingredient that you truly don’t remember buying?
To make this I had to whip up a batch of meatballs. These are straight forward simple and delicious meatballs. They are super juicy and tender and a great go-to meatball. There are 2 secrets when it comes to making a great meatball.
As you can see, these not only look awesome but dear God they are so good! Food like this is pure comfort. It’s inexpensive, feeds a ton and they freeze beautifully for meals later on! I mean it’s a WIN-WIN recipe!
Oh wait, you wanted me to tell about the 2 secrets you need under your belt when it comes to making amazing meatballs huh? Fine fine fine, twist my arm already. Geesh, nag much? LOL just playing! Okay here you go..
1. Do not go with straight ground beef. You want a mixture of ground beef and ground pork. You can even go as far as ground beef, pork and veal but people have issues about ground veal so I’ll let that be your call.
2. NO BREAD CRUMBS… no no no! For these you want milk soaked white bread. Trust me on this. This simple things takes your meatballs from good to FRIGGEN AMAZING! They will be moister and juicier. Super tender. Seriously trust me on this one folks.
Now this recipe is really 2 recipes in one. You have your meatballs and you have your stuffed manicotti so this is a 2-fer. 2 recipes for the price of one. Wait, price? *puts her hands in her pockets and pulls out a hairband, sharpee and chocolate chips (how’d they get there???)*… no moulah here. LOL
So for this recipe you can go all veggie and forget the meat which would rock for meatless mondays or add the meatballs and rock it out! As I was making the meatballs the smells coming from the oven was amazing. Seriously I love these meatballs. However we can’t forget about the pasta. This cheese filling is the same stuff I use in my stuffed shells and my lasagna rollups. It’s so good that I refuse to stray from it. If you want to kick it up, add in some sautéed (and well-drained) spinach. You can even add cooked/crumbled sausage as well. But for me, it’s all about the cheese.
If I had to say the only really ‘hard’ thing about making this is filling the manicotti. Unlike shells where you can just spoon/plop the mixture in manicotti is a tube that you have to fill in. For me the easiest way to do this is just fill a piping bag full of the cheese mixture and pipe it in. Don’t have a piping bag? Use a plastic baggie and cut the tip off after you seal it up. Or use a small spoon to spoon it in.
Once they are all filled with the meatballs and cheese, they get covered and baked. The last 10 minutes or so rip off that foil, slap down some more cheese cause after all there is never enough cheese in pasta, right?! Okay so I lied, THIS may be the hardest thing ever when it comes to making these. Forget the filling part being hard, the fact that once you remove it from the oven you have to let it rest a few minutes BEFORE you plate it. The cheese needs to set up a bit otherwise it’ll just ooze out everywhere.
By the time I was ready to plate these Mr. Fantabulous had come up from working on the downstairs again. Even though making these truly exhausted me seeing him walk into the kitchen, spying up his plates of food and that grin he gets (when he doesn’t think I am watching him) made it so worth it. Plus okay he did the dishes too. BONUS! I’m loving this ‘Lori’ role he’s taken on. The best though, is after he was done doing all of that cleanup, he snuggled up with me in bed, played with my hair and watched cooking shows with me.
Now if you want to make this ahead of time, just stuff the manicotti, put them in your oven/freezer safe container and double wrap in plastic then foil. Freeze for 3 months.
- 1 pound ground beef (80/20 blend)
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 slices stale white bread, crusts removed
- 3 Tbl grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 Tbl parsley
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 8 oz Ricotta Cheese
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup Mozzarella Cheese, Shredded
- 1/4 cup Mozzarella Cheese, Shredded (reserved for end)
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese plus an additional 2 Tbl reserved for end
- 1 Tbl parsley Flakes
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1lb box of manicotti (16-18 tubes)
- 2-3 cups Marinara Sauce
Prepare the meatballs
- Preheat oven to 350 F, rack in the middle. Line a baking pan with foil and spray with olive oil. In a bowl add the bread and the milk, press down to soak the bread and let sit for 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl add the rest of the ingredients; set aside. After 10 minutes, strain the bread from the milk and place the wet bread in the other bowl with the other ingredients. Gently mix together until combined. Do not over mix as the meat will become tough. With wet hands, shape the meatballs into 1” (or slightly smaller) balls and place on the tray, slightly touching. Bake for 25 minutes or until 165F. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. While the meatballs are cooking, boil the manicotti according to the directions on the package. Set aside to drain.
Prepare the filling
- While the manicotti are draining and the meatballs are baking, mix the ricotta, egg, 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, parsley and pepper. Combine well.
- Ladle 1 1/2 – 2 cups of the marinara into the bottom of a 9×13” baking dish. Spread the sauce around. You want about a 1/2” thick layer. Place a meatball in the center of the manicotti tube.
- Using a small spoon or pastry bag filled with your filling place 1-2 Tbl of filling on each side. Place another meatball inside and end with a little more filling on each end. I ended up with 3 meatballs in each manicotti. Put the filled tubes in the pan. In a 9×13” pan you should be able to fix 16 in. If you need to stack, place a 1/2 cup of sauce on top to prevent sticking. Once all the manicotti are made, ladle the remaining sauce and drizzle over top. Cover with foil and set the pan on a baking sheet before you put it into the oven. The baking sheet will catch any leaks. *See Note on Freezing.
- Bake for 25 minutes then remove the foil. Top with the remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
- Put it back into the oven uncovered for 5-10 minutes to melt the cheese. Remove from the oven and all to rest for 10 minutes before serving otherwise you risk having the cheese ooze out.
*Note: At this point, you could freeze the pan. Double wrap in plastic wrap then foil. To reheat, remove the wrappings and place into a cold oven. Turn the temp to 350 and bake for about 40-45 minutes.