I remember going to a dine-in Pizza Hut restaurant often when I was a kid. We would put songs on the jukebox like "Sweet Child of Mine" by Guns'n'Roses, "More Than Words" by Extreme and "To be with You" by Mr. Big. Does anyone else remember that song?! Or do jukeboxes even exist anymore?! Anyway, we'd be sitting at the table listening to the same songs every time, and I would be looking around at all the stuff on the walls, and my eyes would drift to the table. Then, I would see it. The spice of death known as Red Pepper Flakes. My eyes widened, and a fear came over me. How could anyone like that stuff! Maybe Smaug, the dragon, appreciates it because no human on earth could possibly like their mouth to be one fire when eating pizza. To further my point, recently we went to a pizza place, and my two-year old tends to get a little excited with sprinkling things on her pizza. Apparently, she grabbed the red pepper flakes when I wasn't looking and sprinkled a bunch on her pizza. Well, since she eats as much as an ant in a day, I thought I'd finish off one of her pieces. Holy piece of death! There were so many red pepper flakes on that bad boy, and I had no idea until I took a bite. It was crazy, folks. My mouth was burning for like 30 minutes. Well, despite my fear of red pepper flakes that stemmed as a child in Pizza Hut, I have come to appreciate them in red pasta sauce. The flavor disperses and gives the pasta sauce a bit of a kick. I know the recipe says "optional" for them, but try it out if you never have! I'm telling you, it does wonders for your pasta sauce.
Now a quick blurb on this manicotti... When I told my husband I was making this, he was not thrilled. He's not a fan of ricotta, so he was thinking that it would be pasta tubes filled with 1 c of manicotti. These are different, my friends! They use lasagna noodles and are rolled up. It's more like lasagna rolls than manicotti, and they were amazing! The sauce was great, there wasn't too much ricotta in each one, and when I told my son it was like lasagna, he ate four of these, which is crazy because he eats as much as two ants in a day.
This recipe will not disappoint!
source: America's Test Kitchen The New Family Cookbook pg. 363
photo source: http://www.melskitchencafe.com/best-baked-manicotti/
2 T olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t red pepper flakes (optional)
2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1/4 c fresh basil (or 1 1/2 T dried)
salt and pepper
1 1/2 lbs ricotta
1 c Parmesan cheese, grated
8 oz mozzarella, shredded
2 lg eggs, lightly beaten
2 T minced fresh parsley (or 3/4 t dried)
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
16 no-boil lasagna noodles (The flat kind)
1 c mozzarella or Parmesan for the top
In a large pot, cook oil, garlic, and pepper flakes until fragrant- 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn of the heat, and add 3/4 t basil, salt, and pepper. Cover to keep warm,
Mix ricotta, 1 c Parmesan, mozzarella, eggs, parsley, 3/4 t basil, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Mix well.
Pour 1 inch of boiling water into a 9x13 pan. Slip the lasagna noodles in, one at a time. Let the noodles soak for 5 minutes, using a knife to make sure they don't stick together. Remove the noodles and place them on a clean dish towel. Pour the water out and dry the pan.
Preheat the oven to 375, with the rack in the middle position. Spread 1 1/2 c sauce into the 9x13 pan. Working with a few noodles at a time, spoon 1/4 cup of the ricotta mixture onto each noodle. Spread the ricotta evenly onto the bottom 3/4 of the noodle. Starting at the bottom, roll up the noodle. Place it seam side down in the pan. Finish the remaining noodles and cover completely with the remaining sauce.
Cover dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the pan. Take the foil off and cover with 1 c mozzarella or Parmesan, or a mixture of both. Broil 6 inches from the broiler for 4-6 minutes or until the cheese is spotty brown.
Let cool for ten minutes.