Monday, July 26, 2010

Italian Enchiladas

Italian Enchiladas: In the words of Steve and Doug Butabi from the 1998 blockbuster, A Night at the Roxbury (flop to others, loved by me...), - "Como, what?!"

Mr. Max loves his pasta Arrabbiata whenever we go out to Italian places, so when I stumbled upon a recipe for a homemade Arrabbiata sauce, I marked it. Today, I pulled it up again to see that it involves large stuffed pasta shells and I became intrigued. I took this recipe and changed the sauce components which originally instructed to use a store-bought tomato or marinara sauce like Ragu or Prego. Instead I added my own homemade sauce with the additions to make it "arrabiatta". I also decided to stuff the pasta shells with chicken instead of ground turkey, adding fresh chopped spinach with the ricotta cheese and Italian herbs. Whole Foods didn't carry the over-sized pasta shells so I got whole wheat manicotti shells instead. While making it, I was reminded a bit of enchiladas, therefore, I present to you - Italian Enchiladas!

Arrabiata means "angry style" in Italian - the flavor of the sauce rings true to it's origin by the use of the heat and flakes of spicy red peppers. Tonight, I decided to go with a bit of a rap mix - I figured that was the only "angry" music I had on my iTunes. Rihanna and Eminem kick us off tonight with "Love the Way You Lie," followed by my favorite mean song right now, Jerron's "Pray for You".

Prep time is about 20 minutes, cook time about 20 minutes. Let's get started shall we?

Grocery List:
Stuffed Pasta
- 1 box of manicotti shells (or jumbo pasta shells)
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- about 1 lb. chopped chicken
- Salt
- Pepper
- Fresh spinach leaves
- 1 container of part skim ricotta cheese
- 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

For Sauce
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 6 ounces of sliced pancetta, coarsley chopped
- 2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1/2 can evaporated milk
- 1/4 cup onion
- Fresh basil and parsley to taste

Additional Needs:
Large skillet
Large pot
Sauce pan
Aluminum foil
Oven safe dish
Non-stick spray

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Take your boiling pot and fill 1/2 way with water, then add your manicotti shells - I added 8. Cook for 7 minutes on high then check the noodles to see if they are soft, yet still firm enough to hold shape.

Drain in a colander. Place a sheet of aluminum foil in your oven safe dish and spray with non-stick spray. Next, place these shells spread out on the aluminum sheet so they do not stick together.

There is quite a but of chopping to do, let's start with the onions. Cut an onion in half, then begin slicing lengthwise....

...switch directions and cut horizontally.

At this point I had to stop because the onion-tears were flowing. I'm going to wear Mr. Max's swim goggles next time to see if that would prevent this.

After you have about 1 cup of onions, set aside and start chopping your chicken, then the pancetta.

I piled the thin pieces of pancetta and rolled them to cut.

Chopped chicken bits and pancetta. I minced the chicken very small so they would fit well into the manicotti shells.

Take your spinach and cut the leaves in half, I used about 2 handfuls of spinach this time.

Now that you are all chopped up, take your skillet, add some olive oil and throw in your onions and garlic to begin sauteing

Once those get a bit browned, add your chicken.

Let it simmer and cook for about 15 minutes...

Then add your spinach bits...

Continue to saute the chicken, spinach, onions and garlic together until chicken is cooked through and spinach is nice and wilty, then pour into a large mixing bowl. Add 3/4 cup of the ricotta cheese (I started with 1/2 cup, then added another 1/4 cup when I determined I needed a bit more)

Next, add about 1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan,

Then the fresh basil and parsley...

Mix it all up and you have your filling! Set this aside until it's time to stuff the shells.

Now it's Arrabbiata sauce time! Take your sauce pan, add a tad of olive oil, then throw the pancetta bits in there. Get a nice little flavor started...

Let it brown and add the garlic...

Add the tomato paste....

Next add in a handful of onions...

Stir in about 1/2 can of the evaporated milk (remember, 1 can of this is 1 tablespoon worth of calories in the heavy whipping cream! That's 40 calories, friends)

Add some fresh basil and 1 tablespoon of the red pepper flakes - more if you want it spicier - then let sit on the stove and blend flavors as you start to stuff the manicotti shells.

Take a smaller sized spoon and begin stuffing the shells from one end, push it down about 1/2 way then switch ends to do the same. This will help prevent the softened noodle from tearing.

Repeat process until all of your shells are stuffed! We had the perfect amount of filling for the 8 shells.

Next, top your stuffed shells with the Arrabbiata sauce.....

and sprinkle on your mozzarella cheese. Now do you see why I thought of enchiladas while making this?

Pop these in the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Let cool for 5 minutes and you are ready to serve!

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