I filed this meal under ground beef (I have separated all of the Dinner is Served! cards by main protein), but the day I made #22 I didn’t want to have meat. I was sick of it. It might have been the 24 oz. prime rib that I watched Cleve take down at the Golden Steer, but I can’t be sure. Regardless, meat-stuffed tubes of pasta didn’t seem too appealing to me at the time so I decided to make them vegetarian (speaking of vegetarianism–with the exception of some of the miscellaneous cards in the latter part of the Dinner is Served! series–there aren’t any vegetarian meals. That’s not a big deal considering that I am a proud card-carrying member of the carnivore club, but it’s something to note).
So to make it vegetarian I could have just used the standard ricotta cheese mixture, like the one my mum uses in her Christmas Eve stuffed shells (excellent!); but I didn’t want to veer so much from the original recipe. So I mulled over different vegetables for the filling and settled on mushrooms. I dunno–it seemed to me that cooked, chopped mushrooms could look like ground beef? Was this a misguided move? So I made #22 just as Dinner is Served! directed, but I used a pound of white mushrooms in lieu of the meat.
I cooked the filling just as I would if I had used beef–with the onion and spinach. However, it was necessary to use a slotted spoon to scoop the cooked mushroom mixture out of the skillet and into the bread crumbs because when the mushrooms were cooked they released a lot of liquid (as mushrooms are apt to do).
I only made eight manicotti because in the cooking/draining process the other noodles fell apart. Hence, I threw away some of the mixture. I guess I could have utilized the mixture in a future application, but I couldn’t think of one at the time. Oh well.
It was really difficult to get the filling into these slippery mofos–as soon as I stuffed some filling in, it would slide right down the shell and out the bottom. It was a very Lucy Ricardo moment. Cleve laughed at me. He can be an asshat sometimes. Anyway, the shells were filled, topped with a jarred tomato sauce with olives (Classico brand), sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan, and went into the oven.
As I have said before, my Safeway doesn’t carry endive, so I used a premixed bag of salad. Convenience!
For dessert I served almond-flavored biscotti (that’s a good sub for an Amaretti, right?) and fresh plums. But since it was a late dinner and the manicotti was very filling, dessert wasn’t really had. I ate one cookie with a cup of tea and that was it. The fruit was later consumed in packed lunches.
Here it is, the side by side for #22:
Ultimately, I liked this dish. For an improvisation it wasn’t bad. But looking back on it, I think that a small bit of ricotta cheese would’ve really made this good. The melted cheese would’ve acted as an extra binding agent in the filling. And I’m positive I would’ve felt the same way if I had followed the original recipe and used beef.
Note the striking similarity between the plate in the original photo and the one in mine. Very close, right? In addition to my need to buy vintage cookbooks, I have now started collecting vintage cookware and serving pieces. It’s a cheap thing to collect. I can buy and buy and buy and not feel bad about it. That dish cost $1. Thank you, Goodwill.
I have no reason to include this photo. But does there have to be a reason to share a little Brian?