(loosely adapted from Recipetineats.com)
Meat Sauce (this is my basic go-to recipe for meat sauce):
- 1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 16-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 lb ground beef, browned
- 1/2 lb Italian sausage, browned
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (high quality)
- 1 tablesppon garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- ½ tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ¼ teaspoon fresh pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh herbs, chopped (basil, oregano, chives, parsley, etc)
- 12-15 no-boil manicotti noodles or lasagna noodles (if using lasagna noodles, you will need to boil them for 3-4 minutes to soften so they will be pliable)
Spinach and Cheese Filling:
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese (whole milk)
- 10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and water squeezed out
- 1 ½ cup shredded cheese (can use any you have: I used cheddar and mozzarella)
- 1/3 cup shredded parmesan
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 tablespoon fresh herbs (basil, oregano, chives, parsley, etc)
- Extra mozzerella cheese for topping: I used 12 small balls of fresh mozzarella and about ½ cup shredded mozzarella
- 4-5 leaves fresh basil, sliced into slivers
Meat sauce: Cook onion in the olive oil over medium heat for 3-5 minutes or until onion starts becoming translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, browned meat, red wine, dried herbs and salt and pepper and let simmer for 20 minutes. Add the fresh herbs and simmer another 10-20 minutes. Note: I normally would double the meat sauce and then freeze the extra to use for an easy weeknight spaghetti.
Prepare noodles: Boil the lasagna noodles for 3-4 minutes to make pliable. Drain and place on a towel-lined plate. Or just use no-boil manicotti noodles and stuff them with the filling.
Mix Filling: Mix all the filling ingredients in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Assemble and Bake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour about a cup of meat sauce into the bottom of a casserole. Assemble the dish by placing about a ¼ cup filling in each noodle and rolling up (or stuffing, if using manicotti) and setting seam side down in the dish. Repeat until all ingredients are used up. Pour enough meat sauce over the top to cover the noodles completely and then finish with fresh and shredded mozzarella and the chopped fresh basil. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Then, remove the foil and let bake for another 5-10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the sauce bubbles on the edges. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes.