My default meal for a family with a new baby or a potluck is Cheater’s Manicotti. I call it “Cheater’s” because real manicotti has a ricotta cheese filling that I don’t use. I got the idea several years ago while watching The Rachael Ray Show. She was making a Sloppy Joe Manicotti and I remember thinking “that would be really good with string cheese.” (No, I was not pregnant at the time.) So I started experimenting. After a few tries my husband suggested putting some salami in the noodles with the cheese. And it has pretty much stayed the same since then.
I will say, you can use individually wrapped string cheese (ie Cheeseheads) if that is all that is available. But if you happen to live somewhere like Wisconsin where your grocery store has 4 cases containing nothing but cheese, cheese, and more cheese, then you should really get the string cheese that is packaged together (I like J&S from Woodmans). I mean it. It really does make a difference in the taste. Whenever my family goes to Wisconsin, and often when we have guests from there, we get good cheese as a part of the visit so that I can make this when we get home.
It also makes a difference if you buy a block of mozzerella and shred it yourself instead of buying the preshredded bags. They do work, but there is a definite difference. (I married into a family of self-professed cheese snobs – they know when they are getting good cheese.)
1 box of manicotti noodles
14 sticks of string cheese
14 slices of hard salami
1 jar of pizza sauce
1 lb shredded mozzerella cheese
Bowl of cold water
Preheat your oven to about 425 degrees.
On your stove bring a pot of water to a boil, then add the noodles. Cook them for 7 – 9 minutes. Drain off the hot water and submerge them in the bowl of cold water (or pour it into the pot).
While waiting for the water to boil and the noodles to cook, you can prep your cheese by separating the sticks or removing them from their packaging. You can also separate your slices of salami and shred your mozzerella. Then spoon some of the pizza sauce into a 9×13 inch glass casserole dish and spread it around so that the bottom is covered.
Once the noodles are cooked and cooled enough to hold them without burning your hand you are ready to stuff them. Wrap a slice of salami around one stick of string cheese and insert into the noodle. Place the noodle in the prepared dish and repeat with the rest of the noodles. When they are all done, spoon the remaining pizza sauce on top and spread it around until everything is covered. Top it with a generous amount of mozzerella cheese, evenly spread over the noodles.
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until all the cheese is melted and gooey. Serve immediately.
I generally allow two noodles for adults and one noodle for kids, so one batch will feed about 7 adults.