Summer is coming to an end. Luckily, it will be back before we know it. That's the funny thing about seasonsthey keep coming back. As I get older, they seem to be rotating much quicker than I remember from my childhood. Businesses seem to want to push us into things even sooner than we are ready. I have already seen Halloween stuff displayed on store shelves. This was a couple of weeks ago. I wasn't even ready to think of the end of summer yet.
I have decided that I am going to savor every minute remaining of this summer. I will take each hot day and soak it all in. I have less than a week with my daughter Ella before she flies home to England and I will probably have to wait another season or two before I can see her again. I have to keep reminding myself about the quickly passing time and how it won't be long until we are together again. She isn't even gone yet. I don't want to be sad about her going while I still have her under my roof. I don't want even a minute to go by without enjoying her time with us.
One way I know to show how much I love someone is to make them something special to eat. Everyone has their own way of showing love. Mine usually involves food. Ella is a very picky eater. She loves rice and pasta. She is a vegetarian but doesn't like salads, or tofu, or beans. She loves cucumber and mangos. It's difficult to make a meal out of cucumbers, mangos, rice and pasta. Although, I am sure it can be done. One time I bought this tiny rice shaped pasta and Ella was over the moon. It was a combination of her two favorite things: rice and pasta.
Manicotti, with vegetables and salad
So, when I asked her what her favorite meal was, she didn't have an answer. She doesn't have a favorite meal. I don't either; but, that is because I love almost everything. How can I choose one to be a favorite? Ella and I started talking about food and I described a few things I thought she might enjoy. I think she would love shrimp scampi served over rice. She didn't even know she loved shrimp until we went to a Teppanyaki restaurant the other day and the chef tossed a shrimp into her mouth. She knows she likes white fish. She adored the zucchini and squash fritters I made last week. She absolutely loves fries; but, who doesn't?
My mom made her and Daphne the most delicious vegetarian lasagna last weekend which she really liked. My mom is so clever. She knows that Ella doesn't like many vegetables, so she stuck mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and some other vegetables into the food processor, blended them all up and incorporate this into the sauce. Ella didn't know what was in there and thought it tasted delicious. I didn't want to make her lasagna again so soon. However, the lasagna did get me thinking about other baked pasta dishes. We discussed baked ziti, stuffed shells, and then decided on manicotti. My mom always made manicotti when I was growing up. It is so good.
I made the manicotti like I remembered my mom made it. I added in spinach because that is one of the few vegetables Ella enjoys eating. How could she not get pleasure from this dish? It has cheese, pasta, and pasta sauce. She loves all of those ingredients. The meal turned out perfectly and I was right, Ella loved it. There wasn't a speck of anything left on her plate. Maybe now she has a favorite meal.
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
(although you can do a lot of the prep work ahead of time)
16 oz. Manicotti noodles
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 C. cooked spinach
1 pint ricotta cheese
1 1/2 C. mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 1/2 C. parmesan cheese, shredded
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. garlic salt
1tsp. Emeril's Essence
3 15 oz. cans of pasta sauce
Pour yourself a glass of good Italian Chianti. Sip this throughout the cooking processslowly because this will take about an hour and 15 minutes to make. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the manicotti noodles and boil for ten minutes (or per the instructions on the package). Drain, rinse with cool water, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and set aside.
In a skillet, heat olive oil on medium high heat. Add the onions. Saut the onions for about five minutes. Add the garlic and saut another five minutes. Add the spinach and let it wilt for another three minutes. Set aside and let cool.
Mix together the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, and one cup of the parmesan cheese. Whisk together the two eggs and mix that into the cheese mixture. Mix in the spinach, onion and garlic to the cheese mixture. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper and mix well.
Carefully stuff this cheese mixture into the manicotti pasta noodles. Pour about 1/2-inch of the sauce into the bottom of an oven safe dish. Stack the noodles on top of each other if necessary. Pour the remaining sauce over the stuffed noodles. Sprinkle in the salt, pepper, and Essence on the sauce. Sprinkle over the rest of the parmesan and mozzarella cheeses on top of the sauce.
At this point, you can cover this and put it in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake it for dinner or cook it straight away. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes.