Fall Harvest Manicotti with Sage Cream Sauce
2 packages (8 ounces each) manicotti shells (you will use 20 of the shells)
- 1 container (15 ounces) whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin puree
- 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- black pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- In a large bowl, mix ricotta cheese, pumpkin, 1 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, the Pecorino Romano, pepper, parsley, nutmeg and eggs. With a slotted spoon, move the cooled sausage to the bowl, and stir it into the cheese and pumpkin mixture. Taste and season. You will probably not need any salt, as both the Romano cheese and the sausage bring a lot of salt to the recipe. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator for a few hours, or overnight. Don't skip this step, it really does make a difference in the intensity of the flavors.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and now comes the really neat part of the recipe. You will not be cooking the manicotti shells before filling them. If you are like me, you hated have to boil manicotti and jumbo pasta shells, because whenever I boil them first, they break apart, plus those floppy, slippery shells are difficult to fill.
- Fill 20 uncooked manicotti shells with the cheese-pumpkin-sausage mixture. The easiest way to do this is to put about a third of the mixture in a one-gallon plastic storage bag, press the mixture toward one corner and snip that corner with scissors. Use this to pipe the mixture into each end of the manicotti tube so that the filling meets in the middle. Do not overfill. Repeat with the remaining mixture. If you have leftover filling, set it aside.
- Spread a little of the sauce on the bottom of two 9 x 13 baking dishes, then place the filled manicotti in the dishes. Pour the remaining sauce over all, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, and with two spoons, carefully turn each manicotti over. Put the foil back on and place back in the oven for another 15 minutes, until the manicotti is tender.
- Now you can see that the manicotti shells actually cooked in the sauce, so there is very little sauce left. All the delicious flavor from the sauce has permeated the pasta. When the shells are almost done, prepare the medium sage cream sauce and keep warm. Remove the cooked manicotti from the oven and pour half the medium cream sauce over each dish. Sprinkle a cup of mozzarella cheese on top of each dish, and return to the oven to bake just a few minutes until the cheese is melted. This will feed a lot of people.
|Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Mix the rosemary, thyme, sage and flour into the butter mixture; cook and stir until smooth, and bubbling, and there is no lingering "raw" flour smell, maybe 2-3 minutes.|
|Stir the half-and-half into the flour mixture a little at a time, allowing each addition to incorporate fully before adding more. Stir in the nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar, salt, and pepper and cook and stir until smooth.|
This is going to give you a thin sauce, based on the proportion of 1 tablespoon each butter and flour to 1 cup of half-and-half, just right for cooking the stuffed shells without having to boil the pasta first.
Medium Sage Cream Sauce: prepare exactly the same as for the thin sauce, except increase the butter and the flour to 8 tablespoons each, or in simpler terms, 1 stick of butter and 1/2 cup flour.