In deciding what to make for last night's meal, I inquisitively scanned my pantry for "ideas"...ideas based on what ingredients I already had in my possession. I saw an unopened box of manicotti, which was left over from a huge Italian family dinner, as well as the knowledge that I had tons of frozen Italian sausage and fresh Ricotta cheese left over as well. I then went to the Internet and searched for a recipe of "Sausage-Stuffed Manicotti" and I found one that was not only easy to prepare, but delicious at the same time. Giovanni yelled, "Mama - I LOVE IT!...This gets a HUGE thumbs-up from me! Sophia and Giovanni both had two helpings as did their Daddy. He quoted that this was "really" good!
I had a comforting feeling as I prepared this meal knowing that we were utilizing what we had in our cupboards and refrigerator, rather than allowing it to go unused, which sometimes tends to happen. I am always attempting to make the children aware of how we should not waste, and how we need to remember how blessed we are. Blessed with the ability to buy food, the blessing of shelter and family, and blessed with our health. That awareness went into each step of preparation for this meal, and we mentioned it in our blessing beforehand.
We are closing in on September and we have roughly $85.00 in our jars. We are going to donate to Families Forward this month since they are so wonderfully successful in helping families that are experiencing struggle of many sorts. If every family who is blessed with good fortune were to donate something to a family less fortunate, I am convinced that it would make a difference. It leaves a mark on some one's soul when they know that they are cared about in perhaps their lowest moments. I believe that such an experience is never forgotten, rather remembered forever. Often times, it is the catalyst to a future good deed by the one that was helped in the first place. For instance, on a recent date night with my husband, he mentioned that he had bought a homeless person on the street a hamburger while on a business trip. He said, "You know, Jenn, honestly I don't know if I would have stopped to take the time to do that before this blog. You have me thinking about it!" To which I replied, "Honey, I love that! And to think of how he was once some one's newborn...what is his story? What happened during his life to which led to his homelessness?" Joe replied, "You know, that is a good point...the next time I do that, maybe I'll sit down and have a conversation with that person." That made my heart smile. Sure, if one is intoxicated and obliterated, or mentally ill on the streets, sitting down and having a conversation is not going to be productive or perhaps "safe", but there are many that are sober and hungry and lost. Caring about another goes much farther than our eyes can see.
Here is the recipe for you all to enjoy:
"Laurie's Stuffed Manicotti"
1 lb. mild bulk pork sausage (For all the vegetarians, you can simply skip this ingredient and it would still be delightful!)
2 (15 oz.) cans Hunt's Italian tomato sauce
1 ( 6 oz.) can Hunt's tomato paste
1/4 c. water
1/2 TBSP. packed light brown sugar
1 (15 oz.) container ricotta cheese
3 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tsp. parsley flakes
12 manicotti noodles, cooked, rinsed, and drained
Grated Parmesan cheese
In a large saucepan, brown sausage, drain. Remove half of sausage, set aside. Stir tomato sauce, paste, water and brown sugar into sausage, simmer 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine remaining sausage, ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella, egg and parsley.
In a 9x13x2 inch baking dish, pour 1/3 of sauce mixture. Stuff manicotti noodles with ricotta mixture and place on top of sauce. Pour remaining sauce over stuffed noodles. Top with remaining mozzarella, sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.