Rush Hour

Having a last name like Halpin means getting comments about Italian food a lot, especially when people find out what I do for a living! So it comes as a bit of a surprise to some that I am one of those cooks that thinks outside the box when it comes to traditional Italian dishes. I don't want to spend hours slaving over a stove and if I am gonna make a great sauce, I do it once a year with fresh tomatoes and then can a WHOLE bunch of it.

I am also the type to avoid what I determine are unnecessary steps in making what are often thought of as complicated dishes. For example, stuffed pasta dishes never involve boiling for me. I simply split the task into two events and chill in between. I like to plan ahead and assemble a dish in the evening before I go to bed, and then simply toss it in the oven the next evening. It takes about 40 minutes to bake -- which is a perfect amount of time to do a little gardening in my tomato bed, toss together a simple salad and pour a glass of wine to enjoy with dinner!

This month, I'm sharing my simple recipe for Make-Ahead Manicotti. It uses the method I describe above. Use the same method for everything from Stuffed Shells to Lasagne. It's easy and saves you time when you need it most -- right when you've returned home for the day. Besides, once you've realized you don't have to fight with draining, shaping and handling hot noodles, you'll never make these dishes the "traditional" way again! Enjoy!

As always, I encourage you to share your recipe ideas and comments. You can always post comments in the discussion board using the forms provided in the articles or email me directly at .

Make-Ahead Manicotti

  • 1 pint ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 12 manicotti shells
  • 1 (32 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce

In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese and egg until blended. Stir in the mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Stuff the mixture into the uncooked pasta shells.

Spread 1/2 cup of the spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a medium baking dish. Arrange the stuffed pasta shells in a single layer over the sauce. Pour the remainder of the sauce over the shells, cover the dish, and chill in the refrigerator for 8 hours, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Bake the pasta covered for 40 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese, and bake for another 15 minutes. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour, divided plus chilling time