As a result of a great sale a few weeks ago at Brookshire’s, one of my local grocery options, I stocked up my pantry with 10 cans of Hunt’s Pasta Sauce.
I usually make my own pasta sauce, but I do always like to keep a tin or two of Hunt’s Pasta Sauce in my pantry for a quick, easy meal. For example, I’ve found that it’s just the right amount of sauce for a frozen (or refrigerated) bag of ravioli. It’s also just the right amount of sauce for when I make stuffed shells — I figure I’m already futzing with stuffing the pasta shells, so unless I’m feeling especially like puttering in the kitchen, I usually make it easy on myself and doctor up a can of Hunt’s Pasta Sauce. When we’re making up a big batch of pizzas (such as for a family birthday party), mixing a tin of Hunt’s Pasta Sauce with tomato paste is an easy way to make a yummy pizza sauce for a crowd.
Generally, I choose Hunt’s Pasta Sauce over other brands because even when it’s not on sale, it’s usually more affordable than other brands; I like the flavor of it (‘though I add additional seasonings to it, of course); and in comparison to other sauces, it seems to have the least amount of added sugar.
Hunt’s Pasta Sauce comes in a variety of flavors, but I usually get either the Garlic & Herb or the No-Sugar-Added sauce, although I’ve found that the No-Sugar-Added sauce is thinner and more watery than the others.
Given that, at a $1 a can, the Pasta Sauce is more affordable than an equal amount of tomato sauce, I’m treating the Hunt’s Pasta Sauce as I would a seasoned tomato sauce and trying it in a few different ways.
Yesterday, inspired by a recipe on a box of Barilla manicotti shells, I decided to make Cheese, Spinach, and Mushroom Manicotti. I’ve made stuffed jumbo shells before, but never manicotti.
Manicotti is a cylindrical pasta that is usually stuffed with some kind of filling and baked in some kind of sauce — think super-sized elbow macaroni, but without the elbow 😉 Stuffing the shells is a bit of a piddling project, which is why I thought using the convenience of a tin of Hunt’s Pasta Sauce would be perfect for this meal.
I overbaked mine a wee bit, so have adjusted the baking time here, so that next time, you and I will get it right! 😉 It tastes as yummy as it smells and is one of the few meatless meals wherein my hubby doesn’t miss the meat. 🙂
I rounded the meal out with a light Caesar salad and a loaf of French bread purchased from the refrigerated section of the grocery (I didn’t have time yesterday to make my own bread).
Cheese, Spinach, and Mushroom Manicotti (Serves 5 to 7)
- 1 package (8 ounces, which is 14 noodles) manicotti
- 6 or so ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped
- Minced garlic to taste
- 1 package (10 ounces) frozen spinach, thawed and drained/squeezed free from liquid OR 1 bag (6 ounces) of fresh spinach
- Approximately 2 cups (15 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese (NOTE: You could use cottage cheese if you prefer or can’t get ricotta)
- 1 egg
- Sprinkling of nutmeg to taste (trust me, it adds something)
- Seasonings to taste for filling: basil, Italian seasoning, oregano, parsley, salt, and coarse ground black pepper
- Grated Parmesan to taste (Vegetarians, leave out or use a vegetarian substitute)
- Grated mozzarella to taste (I used part-skim mozzarella)
- 1 can (26 ounces) Hunt’s Pasta Sauce
- Additional seasonings for sauce to taste: Worcestershire sauce (vegetarians, leave out or use a vegetarian substitute), red pepper flakes, basil, Italian seasoning, oregano, parsley, and a splash of red wine, if desired
- Cook manicotti in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente (about 5 or 6 minutes). Drain and rinse with cool water so that you will be able to handle them.
- In a lightly oiled non-stick skillet, cook chopped mushrooms until tender. Add in minced garlic and cook until fragrant. Add in fresh or frozen spinach and cook until fresh spinach is wilted through or until frozen spinach is thoroughly mixed in with the mushrooms and garlic. Let cool.
- In a medium-sized bowl, stir together ricotta cheese, egg, a bit of grated Parmesan (if using) and/or some shredded mozzarella, nutmeg, and other filling seasonings to taste. Stir in mushroom/spinach/garlic mixture.
- Season pasta sauce as desired with additional seasonings.
- Lightly oil or spray with cooking spray a 13″x9″ pan. Spread a small amount of pasta sauce (1/2 to 1 cup) along the bottom of the pan.
- Gently fill each manicotti with the cheese/spinach/mushroom mixture (I used a teaspoon, filling the manicotti on both ends). Place in prepared 13″x9″ pan. Sprinkle with some shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Cover pan with foil and place in oven. Bake at 350F (no need to preheat!) for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove foil and finish baking until bubbly and heated through, another 5 to 15 minutes.
- Let rest 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
- Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.