Eggplant Stuffed Manicotti Recipe: For when the vegetarian daughter-in-law comes to visit.
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I'm a meatatarian. A true carnivore. If it doesn't have meat in it somewhere it usually doesn't make it to the dining room table.
Which makes things a real challenge when my vegetarian daughter-in-law comes over to eat.
So the other day, facing a visit from the newlyweds, I had to look around and see what was available to put together - and that all of us could enjoy at the same time.
Being a believer in the art of impromptu cooking I was able to not only meet the challenge, but from the response of the family, far exceed it.
My Eggplant Stuffed Manicotti Recipe is what I came up with.
Jack's World Famous Manicotti Stuffed with Eggplant
Manicotti, also known as Cannelloni, are very versatile and can be stuffed with most anything that you can think of, which makes it a very handy staple to keep in the kitchen. The total time from beginning to end is about five hours, which includes time in the middle for the stuffing mixture to cool off.
Actually... there is no reason why the stuffing mixture cannot be made one day, refrigerated overnight, and the dish completed the next day. Just make sure the stuffing comes to room temp before filling the pasta.
The following is just a pretty open guideline. Feel free to substitute your preferences in and out and I'm sure it will still work pretty good. If the cheese needs to be left out it will still turn out fine.
1 tbsp butter (or cooking oil if preferred)
1 med. Onion
1 stalk celery
1 bell pepper, red preferred but any will work
1 med package of fresh button mushrooms (one half diced, one half medium sliced)
Several cloves of garlic, more or less
2 large eggplants
1 cup olive oil
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese or other stringy cheese.
2 packages no-cook manicotti(about 20 total)
2 20 oz cans of tomato sauce
1 regular sized can of diced tomatoes
1 cup parmesan cheese or other similar type
Italian seasoning to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Finely dice the onion, celery, and bell pepper, and one half of the button mushrooms and sauté in the butter in a large covered skillet over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the onion turns translucent. Add about two tablespoons of Italian seasoning and the minced garlic and continue to sauté over a low flame for another five minutes.
While that is cooking, dice the eggplant into ¼ inch pieces. There is no need to peel the eggplant.
After the onions have cooked about 15 minutes add the eggplants into the pan and stir in the olive oil. Stir every together, cover and let cook over a medium flame for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
After the eggplants are cooked thru pull the pan off the heat and let cool down until it is no longer warm to the touch. This is so that when you mix the cheese in it will not melt on you and make it difficult to stuff the pasta. Now is the time to refrigerate it overnight if you would like to finish the dish the next day.
While the mixture is cooling go ahead and fix the sauce. Add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes into a mixing bowl with about two cups of water and add as much Italian seasoning as you enjoy. Some people would add sugar at this point but I think that is a real abomination. I like a low salt dish so that people can add their own at the table, but I do have a heavy hand with the black pepper here. A few cloves make a nice addition if you like, or use your imagination. Really. Your choice.
After everything is mixed set aside for a moment.
When the eggplant mixture is cool enough go ahead and mix the mozzarella cheese in. Now you're ready to begin stuffing the shells.
Because we are using the "no cook" technique there is no problem with having to deal with floppy pasta that tears apart on you. We used a narrow spoon and it took us about thirty seconds per shell to stuff. Set the stuffed shells aside for a moment.
If you have any eggplant mixture left over that is okay because we'll use it later.
Spray a five quart dutch oven with cooking spray and then pour one third of the tomato sauce into the bottom. Arrange half of the manicotti into the pot on top of the sauce.
Pour another third of the sauce on top of the manicotti, and then layer one half of any leftover mixture on top of that.
Put the remaining manicotti over that, and then pour the remaining tomato sauce over that. Layer the last of the eggplant over that.
Add the sliced mushooms as the next layer, and then cover that with the parmesan cheese.
Add the cover to the Dutch oven and place in a pre-heated oven at 375. Bake for one hour.
The dish can be served immediately as it is bubbling hot, but it really is a little bit better to let is sit and settle for about 30 minutes. This will give time enough for the sauce to be absorbed a little better into the pasta, and will make it less juicy.
As a side note, the leftovers are absolutely delicious.
Serve with good bread, a salad, some green beans, and you have a dish that any person, carnivore or vegetarian, will sing praised for.
Thanks for enjoying the recipe and I invite you to browse around and see what else I have to offer. I am sure you'll find something you'll like.