What’s Cookin’ at Callie’s Cabin: Manicotti with a mother’s touch
May 8, 2014
Here comes Mother's Day. On Sunday, families will show mom thanks in a multitude of ways. Serving fail-proof homemade Italian cuisine for brunch or dinner will be a welcome, decadent surprise.
Meet manicotti. It's big pasta tubes that have ridges. You fill these babies with cheese (mixed with different vegetables or meat), and top with sauce and cheese and savor each bite.
Years ago during my anti-cooking days, I recall one busy Mother's Day. I was a magazine journalist/contributing editor living and working in San Carlos. As usual, I was on deadline cranking out an article (or two) for "Complete Woman" magazine. I felt lonely yet focused on stories that were due the next morning. I tried to forget that it was a holiday for fulfilled women with kids.
In between inputting words, in my study I wolfed down nuked manicotti (the frozen kind in box). All of a sudden, the sound of an incoming fax grabbed my attention. The paper greeted me with a colorful drawing of my three cats, one dog and me smiling amid trees and a bungalow. The words, "Happy Mother's Day" was a double surprise. Not only did it confirm I was a "mom", a phone call followed from the sender — my boyfriend. The gesture he created made my dinner for one taste better. I felt "complete" and thankful for my blessings.
These days, I enjoy cooking and baking, especially Italian food. This week was perfect timing for manicotti, going down memory lane. Instead of using marinara sauce from a jar, I made my own to control the ingredients and lose the sodium. It's easy to do (a nutritionist told me this years ago) and tastes even better than all-natural kinds. So, here's the easy down-to-earth recipe I'll save for me and/or guests year-round.
Homemade Marinara Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
4 Roma tomatoes
6 tablespoons organic tomato paste
1 cup water
2 tablespoon herbs, fresh or dried including basil, thyme
Black pepper to taste
In a skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic. Add tomatoes, paste, and water. Stir. Heat to a boil. Add herbs and pepper. Simmer for a few minutes. Set aside.
½ box manicotti
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup mushrooms, fresh, chopped (or spinach)
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons herbs, fresh or dried
4-5 slices mozarrella cheese
Fresh parmesan cheese, grated
In a saucepan, cook pasta. In a skillet, heat olive oil with garlic. Add herbs. Mix mushrooms or spinach with ricotta mixture and add oil and garlic. Fill manicotti. Place in a baking dish with half of the sauce on the bottom. Drizzle sauce on top of the pasta tubes. Top with mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Top with grated cheese. Makes 3 servings.
This dish is as good as it gets. The different cheeses and chunky savory sauce make each bite one to love and good enough to pay forward the recipe. Served with a dinner salad, and sourdough French bread from Truckee completes the meal. Also, chocolate biscotti (homemade or store bought) sprinkled with confectioners' sugar dipped in coffee for dessert is the perfect treat for Mom and her kids (human or fur critters). This Italian fare will whisk her away to Tuscany — or it will feel like it.
Motto: You don't always get what you want but you get what you need and expressing gratitude makes it sweeter.
Cal Orey, M.A. is an author and journalist. Her books include "The Healing Powers" series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. Her website is http://www.calorey.com.