4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
salt and ground black pepper
8 oz. (or 14pcs) manicotti
1 (15 oz) container whole-milk ricotta cheese
3 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan, plus 3 tablespoons
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups marinara sauce
2 tablespoons butter, cubed
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 carrots, peeled and finely chopped or finely grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 1/2 (32 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
-In a large pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt, oregano, crushed red pepper and black pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, if need be.
-Heat a medium pan over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, onion, (mushrooms if using) 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 set aside to cool.
-Brush 1 teaspoon of oil over a large baking sheet. Cook the manicotti in a large pot of boiling oiled water until slightly softened, about 7 minutes. (The Manicotti should still slightly firm so it won’t be soft and over cooked after baking). Transfer the manicotti from the pot to the non-stick baking sheet and set to cool.
-Meanwhile, using large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, 2 cups mozzarella cheese, 1 cup Parmesan, and the 2 tablespoons of parsley. Add the garlic, 1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper to taste and mix. Add the cooled meat mixture into the cheese mixture and stir until well incorporated.
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Brush the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil over a 13×9-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. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley, then the 3 tablespoons parmesan and the remaining 1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper on top. Dot the entire dish with the cubed butter. Bake the manicotti uncovered until light-golden brown and the sauce bubbles on the sides of the dish, about 35 minutes. Let the Manicotti cool for about 5 minutes. Serve warm.