Chicken sausage and Ricotta Manicotti

There's something about stuffed pasta that's extremely appealing to me. Ravioli. Tortellini. Stuffed shells. Manicotti. Yes, please.

I last made manicotti a long time ago. Since I haven't been to the grocery store in quite some time, I'm in one of those situations now when the odd-ball ingredients  in my refrigerator and pantry dictate what's for dinner. I literally had 1 box of manicotti, 1 jalapeno, 1 onion, 1 can of crushed tomatoes, 1 package of pre-cooked and seasoned chicken sausage, 1 small tub of low-fat ricotta cheese, and juuust enough cilantro left over. That, combined with my laziness in driving 2 minutes to the store, is what gave birth to this pasta. It usually works out that these types of creations end up being my favorite - and this chicken and ricotta manicotti is no different.

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 tbsp pesto
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes with basil
  • 2 tsp crushed red peppers
  • Salt
  • 4 links cooked, seasoned chicken sausage (mine was a monterey cheese + mexican spice blend)
  • 2-3 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup low-fat ricotta

Prep:

Heat the olive oil and pesto in a large pan. Add the red onion and jalapeno and cook until the onions soften, then add the Italian seasoning. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, season with salt, and add the red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer. The chicken sausage slices go in next, since they're already cooked and you just want to warm them up. Turn off the heat and stir in the cilantro and ricotta cheese. Cook the manicotti according to package instructions. Fill the manicotti with the chicken-ricotta mixture and spoon some of the mixture on top of the manicotti to keep it moist. Lastly, sprinkle a little dried parsley on top of the manicotti and serve warm.

As much as I love almost any kind of cheese. I liked the fact that this manicotti was not cheese heavy. I used the ricotta cheese (which I don't even consider a cheese, really) mainly to thicken up the mixture so it wasn't dribbling out of the manicotti in a gross fashion. The pesto, onions, jalapenos, and the chicken gave the sauce enough flavor that I didn't miss real cheese so much. Actually, when I tasted everything minus the ricotta and cilantro, it tasted soooo dumb. It was flat, boring, and ordinary. So, I resorted to one of my favorite cooking tricks: when something tastes ok but not great, chop up a medium-high amount of cilantro and stir it in. Never fails!

Now, I'm truly out of ingredients to cook with and must absolutely plan out our meals for the next week (sort of) and get to the store.