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Beef and cheese manicotti

This recipe makes a TON of filling! I originally planned on halving the recipe, so I cooked 1/2 onion and 1/2 lb mixed ground beef and Italian sausage. I made homemade ricotta, but used a different ratio of cream to milk. I read on Smitten Kitchen that you didn’t need as much cream, so I went with that recipe/technique. For whatever reason, the amount of strained liquid was a lot more and my yield of ricotta was a lot less than my first attempt. I used Ina’s recipe and double boiled last time. Since I didn’t have as much ricotta, I added less cheese. And as a result, I only used about 2/3 of the meat/onion mix. But even with all of my cuts, I still had the perfect amount to fill half of a package of manicotti (7 shells.) The marinara sauce I used was Mike Isabella’s pepperoni sauce. I used 6 oz of sliced pepperoni (which seemed like a LOT), 1 28 oz can whole tomatoes, and about 1 cup of chicken stock. I strained the sauce at the end to make it smoother. It was so good! I love the hint of pepperoni and I would definitely use this in dishes where the sauce was the star. It is a pretty fatty sauce but most totally worth it.

I included both recipes for the pepperoni sauce that I found. One of the recipes has a splash of vinegar at the end, but I completely forgot about it. Maybe next time!

I was going to add pesto to the meat/ricotta mixture but I bought sun dried tomato pesto mozzarella instead. I like the flavor of the cheese but it is so oily! I drained the oil and I still felt like it was too greasy. I also used some provolone. I omitted the butter on top.

I boiled the manicotti shells for half of the cook time. I filled the shells and made the sauce a day ahead. I baked for 30 minutes covered, 5 minutes uncovered, then broiled until browned.

Beef and Cheese Manicotti (Giada)


  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 14 (8-ounce package) manicotti
  • 1 (15-ounce) container whole-milk ricotta
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups marinara sauce
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces


Heat a heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, onion and ground beef. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until the meat browns and the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and cool.

Brush 1 teaspoon of oil over a large baking sheet. Cook the manicotti in a large pot of boiling salted water until slightly softened, but still very firm to the bite, about 4 to 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the manicotti from the pot to the oiled baking sheet and cool.

Meanwhile, combine the ricotta, 1 1/2 to 2 cups mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan, and parsley. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper to taste, and mix. Stir the cooled meat mixture into the cheese mixture.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil over a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Spoon 1 1/2 cups of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish. Fill the manicotti with the cheese-meat mixture. Arrange the stuffed pasta in a single layer in the prepared dish and spoon the remaining sauce over.

Sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese, then the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan over the stuffed pasta. Dot entire dish with the butter pieces. Bake the manicotti uncovered until heated through and the sauce bubbles on the sides of the dish, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let the manicotti stand 5 minutes and serve.

Makes 4 1/2 cups to 4 3/4 cups

This sauce may turn out to be a bit more textured, depending on how you puree it. Still tastes just as good.

MAKE AHEAD: The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion, cut into small dice

5 medium cloves garlic, cut into very thin slices

1 pound pepperoni, cut into thin slices

1 teaspoon fennel seed, toasted (see NOTE)

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

8 to 12 ounces canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, chopped, with their juices

1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 fresh bay leaf

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, until the oil shimmers.

Add the onion and garlic; cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until they are golden and fragrant.

Stir in the pepperoni; cook for about 5 minutes, until fragrant and evenly coated, then add the toasted fennel seed and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute, stirring.

Add the tomatoes and their juices (to taste), the broth and the bay leaf; stir to incorporate. Once the mixture starts to bubble at the edges, cover and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. The pepperoni slices will be soft, with a deeper color. Remove from the heat.

Working in batches as needed, transfer to a food processor or a high-powered blender (including the bay leaf). Puree until smooth. The sauce is ready to use. Or cool, cover and refrigerate or freeze.

NOTE: Toast the fennel seed in a small dry skillet over medium heat, shaking the skillet often to keep the seeds from burning. They will become fragrant and slightly darker in color.

Makes 4 1/2 cups to 4 3/4 cups


  • 6-oz. pepperoni, cut into thin slices
  • 4-oz. yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon chili flake
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed, toasted
  • 4-oz. crushed San Marzano tomatoes, chopped
  • 4-oz. chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar


In a pot, sweat onions in olive oil for five to seven minutes. Add garlic and continue to sweat for two minutes. Add the pepperoni and cook for about three more minutes. Add spices and cook for an additional minute. Add the crushed tomatoes with the juice and cook for five more minutes. Lastly, add chicken stock and simmer for 40 minutes.

Remove the mixture from heat and puree in a blender. Season with salt and pass it through a fine china cap. Finally, add the splash of vinegar.


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