I love food...this should be a well known fact by now if you've been reading this blog at all. I love cooking, I love eating, I love trying new things, most of all I love how food has a tendency to bring people together. For good or bad, food is a comfort for many of us.
When my grandmother passed away people brought food to the funeral home for my family to eat. When my grandfather passed away people brought food to my grandmothers home. When my mother had surgery people brought food to my parents house. When I've been sick friends have brought food to my apartment for me so I didn't have to cook when not feeling well. Finally when a good friend of mine had her first child her fridge was so full of food she literally didn't have to go shopping or out to eat for over a month! Let's face it, when something happens to someone we have a tendency to bring them food to help. I see nothing wrong with this, as a matter of fact I think that it can be a huge help sometimes.
I also know that I can only eat so many casseroles before they go bad though. This is why I have been trying to work on a meal that would freeze well for situations like this so that the individual can just freeze it and pull it out when they have eaten all the other dishes. I wanted it to be healthy too, so no cream of ick soup in it at all!!! Also I wanted to make something so on those lazy days when I just don't feel like cooking I can just toss it in the oven and have dinner! (Yes I can be super lazy when I want to be! lol)
So I decided to tweak a recipe I found in Rocco DiSpirito's cookbook, "Now Eat This!". I made the dish larger (to feed more people), and added a bit more too it since I felt like it needed some protein. So I'm sharing with you my adapted recipe for Eggplant Manicotti which I think it pretty amazing! Enjoy, and let me know what you think! =)
2 Large Eggplants
2 Cups Ricotta (You can also use cream cheese, or cottage cheese if you can't get ricotta or don't like it.)
1 Cup Parmesan
1 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil
1 Jar Pasta Sauce (I jazz up jar sauce with a tablespoon of Italian seasoning, 2 minced garlic cloves, and a tablespoon of dried onion. This is totally optional though!)
1 lbs. Ground Beef (You could also use ground turkey for a leaner option)
1.5 Cups Mozzarella
Salt & Pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 450 degrees, and spray 2 baking sheets with non-stick spray.
- Cut off the ends of each eggplant and then slice lengthwise into 8 slices about 1/4 of an inch thick.
- Lay the eggplant slices in one layer onto the prepared baking sheets.
- Season the eggplant with salt and pepper and either spray with non-stick spray or sprinkle with a light coating of oil.
- Roast the eggplant in the oven until tender, approximately 20 minutes. ***Note that if your slices are not equally thick some may roast faster than others so pull thin slices out before they burn!***
- Once the eggplant is roasted allow it to cool, outside the oven, slightly while you prepare the filling and sauce. (Leave the oven on if you are not planning to freeze this meal for later!)
- Brown ground beef in a skillet, and drain fat once cooked.
- Add pasta sauce to beef and allow to heat together.
- Combine the ricotta, 1/2 Cup of the Parmesan, and the basil in a bowl. Season this mixture with salt and pepper to taste. (You could also add the meat to this mixture rather than the sauce if you want, but it does thin out your cheese mixture.)
- Place one third of the sauce on the bottom of a 8"x11" baking dish and spread it out.
- Lay a roasted eggplant slice on a work surface and spoon some of the cheese mixture onto the bottom of it. Roll up the slice encasing the filling in the eggplant.
- Place the completed roll seam side down into the baking dish on top of the sauce.
- Repeat for all pieces of eggplant and then cover with the remaining sauce.
- Sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmesan cheese and the mozzarella cheese.
|Yes, this is more cheese on top than the recipe states...I have a thing for cheese.|
At this point you can cover and freeze the dish for you to finish cooking later, or to give for someone to finish.
To finish cooking bake at 450 degrees till the cheese and filling are bubbly and warm. About 30-45 minutes. Serve immediately.