Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Manicotti with Cheese Filling, Maltese Style

I got an e mail asking if there was a Vegetarian version.
Yes, indeed, there is.
Ma referred to it as her easier-on-the-budget version.
But it’s still really, really good.

I had posted Carmela’s recipe for manicotti a while ago.
Try them all and give your family and friends some variety. 

Ma usually served a pasta dish to make the main dish go further when the family gathered for a holiday meal.
With a vegetable side dish, it could be the main dish.
Just saying.


Hints:

If you already have shredded mozzarella in the fridge you can use that instead.

New at stuffing tubes?  
It’s easier to cram a bit in from each end.
You can either use a spoon, or place the filling in a plastic bag.  
Using scissors, cut a corner from the bottom of the bag. 
Fill by squeezing the filling mixture into both ends of each tube.

You can also prepare stuffed manicotti in advance and freeze.
If you're in a cooking frenzy, make extra for another dinner.
For frozen stuffed manicotti, an hour in a 350º oven usually did the trick.


                        Manicotti with Cheese Filling


In a large pot place
4 quarts water
Over high heat bring the water to a boil.
Add 
salt to taste
Add
12 manicotti tubes
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is cooked but slightly chewy.
Drain the tubes and rinse with cold water.
Drain well.

For Filling

In a large skillet melt
1/2 Cup butter or margarine
Add
1 large onion, minced
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
Fry over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Stir in 
1/2 Cup flour
Gradually stir in
4 Cups milk
Stir over low heat until the sauce bubbles and thickens.

Stir in
1 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bow combine
16 ounces ricotta 
4 ounces mozzarella, diced 
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 Cup grated Romano cheese
1/4 Cup chopped parsley  (or 4 Tablespoons dried, more or less)
3 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Mix well.

Grease a  9 x 13 x 2 inch baking pan
Carefully stuff the manicotti tubes and place them in the baking pan.
Spoon the sauce over the tubes.

Preheat oven 400º
Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and lightly browned.

Serve with a vegetable that adds a bit of colour.
Ma’s Green Bean Salad is a good choice.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Baked Macaroni and Sausage, Maltese Style


Timpana is number one among Maltese pasta dishes.
But Imqarrun il-forn is a close second.
And, true to a Maltese love of variety, there’s a third.
And probably a fourth, a fifth, a sixth…

But, back to number three.
Baked Macaroni and Sausage is similar to Imqarrun il-forn in that it does not have a crust, like Timpana.

But then it also has the extra treat that Imqarrun il-forn has that makes Imqarrun so special.
Usually when the macaroni is baked a few of the top ones get burnt.

Oh, how we fought over the burnt bits of pasta!
The crusty edges are also delicious.
I don't know why, but a crusty, hard piece of semi-fried, tomato meat sauce
drenched pasta is just the best.

Cut yourself a corner piece and see if you don't agree.
And be sure to pick off and enjoy a few burnt bits.
Smile, savour and, if you're the cook, don't apologize!


Hints:

About the macaroni…
Usually Ma used ziti or penne.
In a pinch, elbow.
You want something that can be filled by the sauce. 
Spaghetti would just lay there.
Not a good thing.

If you want to use hot Italian sausage, no problem.


                        Baked Macaroni and Sausage

Grease a 9 x 13 x 2 inch pan

Remove the meat from the casings of
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
Place the meat in a dutch oven.
Fry the meat until it crumbles.

Add 
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
Fry 5 minutes.
Stir in
1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, chopped and undrained
2 Cups water
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
Season with
salt and pepper to taste
Remove from heat.

While the sauce is simmering, in a large pot place
4 quarts water
salt to taste
Bring to a boil.
Add
400 grams (about 1 pound) macaroni
Cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente - about 10 minutes.
Drain the pasta well.

Shred coarsely
1 pound mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400º 

Place in the prepared pan a layer of 1/3 of the pasta.
Sprinkle over the pasta 1/2 of the shredded mozzarella cheese.
Repeat.
Top with a final layer of pasta.
Pour the tomato meat sauce over the pasta.
Sprinkle over the sauce
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
          
Place the pan, uncovered, in the preheated oven.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until bubbly and brown.
If you see a few burnt spots then you know it's perfect.

This was usually served as a first course.
With a vegetable and some crusty bread, it would make a great lunch.