Let’s do the time shift again, with apologies to The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Dinner for two? No problem.
Thaw a pack of manicotti and a tub of marinara in the refrigerator (1 – 2 days). Put a pair of manicotti in each au gratin dish and cover with marinara, pre-shredded mozzarella cheese, and pre-shredded Parmesan cheese. Tent the manicotti with aluminum foil, preheat the oven, and cook for 60 minutes at 375 degrees F. Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes to brown. Serve with a steamed vegetable, like zucchini sprinkled with shredded Parmesan cheese.
I use an older Panasonic microwave and a Breville BOV800XL oven for cooking. They work well when cooking for two.
Step 1: Timeshifting Zucchini
1. Wash and dry the zucchini.
2. Quarter and cube, place in a 2-quart glass measure, spritz with water, and cover.
3. Microwave on High (8-1/2 minutes in my microwave).
4. Drain, “plate”, sprinkle with Parmesan, and serve.
Note: Use a sprayer filled with water to wet vegetables for steaming in the microwave. The smaller size of the droplets is more likely to be converted to steam.
Note: Use Chinet paper lunch plates (8-3/4-inches) as lids. They are sturdy enough to hold the contents when draining.
For zucchini, choose the ones that are under an inch in diameter with smooth skin and no pock marking.
Check for freshness. Support a zucchini with your index and little finger and press gently in the middle with your thumb to see if it flexes. Firm is fresh. “Flexy” is past its prime. Fresh zucchini are usually good for a week in the refrigerator.
I get the best life by storing them in the vegetable drawer wrapped in paper towels. Plastic bags develop condensation which results in slimy or pock marked zucchini.
Step 2: Timeshifting Marinara
For the marinara, I use a marinara that I make and freeze. It makes six portions that can be used with manicotti, ravioli (Buitoni), or baked penne. If there is any interest, I will work up the marinara into an Instructable. I used to use Buitoni marinara, from the refrigerated section of the grocery store. It is very good and I used it as my “gold standard” when working up my version of marinara.
Step 3: Timeshifting Manicotti – Tools and Ingredients
2 ea – 2-quart glass measuring cups
Heat resistant mat
Scissors handle tongs – smooth edges (don’t use grill tongs, they can cut the pasta)
Box grater (large grate for mozzarella and small grate for Parmesan)
1 15 oz tub part-skim ricotta cheese
60 grams grated BelGioioso Parmesan cheese (2 oz. / about 1/2 cup)
120 grams shredded mozzarella cheese (4 oz. / about 1 cup)
2 fluid ounces Eggbeaters (1 large egg, lightly beaten)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon dry parsley
1 tablespoon dry basil
8 no-boil lasagna noodles (or 10 if smaller portions)
Note: I have tried lots of brands of Parmesan cheese and my favorite is from BelGioioso Cheese Inc.
Note: I have never noticed a difference in taste in ricotta between brands or part-skim versus whole.
Note: I buy the bulk, 5 pound, shredded mozzarella and split it into two freezer bags, one for the refrigerator and one for the freezer. I used to portion and freeze it, but it is used quickly and the two bag approach is more convenient.
Step 4: Timeshifting Manicotti – Make the Manicotti
1. Put the ingredients, except for the noodles, in a 2-quart measuring cup. Mix well and roughly mark portions, eight or ten.
2. Put on the gloves.
3. Heat six cups of water in a 2-quart measuring cup in the microwave for 12 minutes on High. Handle with hot pads and set on a trivet. Settle each noodle into the water. When it bends add the next one. Continue for all of the noodles. When the last noodle is just flexible, remove and drain all of the noodles (about two minutes after the last noodle).
4. Layout the noodles. This is where the gloves are important, hot noodles.
5. Spoon equal portions of filling at one end of the noodle.
6. Roll the noodle just tightly enough to hold the filling end-to-end.
7. Package four manicottis per quart freezer Ziploc bag and freeze.
Note: In the photo, you will see I used a brown 3.5 liter stock pot because I used both 2-quart measuring cups for two batches of filling at the same time.
Step 5: Timeshifting Manicotti – Cook the Manicotti
1. Thaw a pack of manicotti and a tub of marinara in the refrigerator (1 – 2 days).
2. Put a pair of manicotti in each au gratin dish and cover with marinara, pre-shredded mozzarella cheese, and pre-shredded Parmesan cheese.
3. Place the manicotti on a “catch tray”. They tend to be sloppy and you don’t want it on the heating elements. If you are using a Breville BOV800XL, set the rack on the lowest position to keep the foil tent out of the top heating elements and select “Bake”.
4. Tent the manicotti with aluminum foil, preheat the oven, and cook for 60 minutes at 375 degrees F. Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes to brown.
5. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve.
Note: The frozen manicotti and frozen marinara can both be thawed on a microwave's defrost setting, although letting the refrigerator do it is much easier. Put the manicotti in the au gratin dishes and only heat them until defrosted, not cooked. Put the marinara container in a sink with warm water long enough to get the marinara out of the container. Put the marinara in a 1-quart measuring cup and only heat until defrosted.