Looking for something delicious? How about Chad’s manicotti. LOL, I’m talking about the manicotti recipe he uses to impress Fila’s family in Husbandry.
Each of Fila’s three husbands has his own personality and advantages, and Chad is the artistic, romantic one who knows how to cook. He can even say something naughty in Italian while he does it. I’ve eaten this spinach manicotti on numerous occasions, and I can testify that it’s delizioso.• 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced • 3 tbsp olive oil • 5 cups chopped tomatoes • 4 tbsp chopped basil • Salt, pepper, and garlic salt • 3 cups ricotta cheese • 1 cup cooked spinach, chopped and drained • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese • ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese • 1 package manicotti shells (10-14 shells)
Chop tomatoes and basil and shred mozzarella. In a heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil and cook the garlic until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and basil, season with salt and pepper, stir, and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. While sauce is cooking, cook the manicotti shells in salted, boiling water until al dente. Drain the shells and drop into a bowl of cold water. In a bowl, mix together the spinach and three cheeses with salt, pepper, and garlic salt. Drain the shells and pat dry with a towel. Spoon a half cup of sauce into the bottom of a large (covered) baking pan and spread evenly. Fill manicotti shells with ricotta mixture and lay in pan side by side. Spoon the sauce evenly over the shells, then sprinkle with garlic salt and parmesan cheese. Bake the pasta covered for 20 minutes at 375°F. Then remove cover and cook for another 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
And now here’s a special excerpt from Husbandry:
… Since my mother hadn’t returned from the kitchen yet, I figured I’d better get in there to rescue Chad.
Sure enough, she’d taken over, though not as badly as I’d feared. Somehow my husband had relegated her to salad duty while he stuffed the manicotti shells. He looked happy, not browbeaten.
“Your mother just gave me a recipe for homemade ricotta,” he announced. “I’ll have to try it. The ricotta you picked up is fresh, but you can’t beat homemade.”
“Sounds complicated.” I hadn’t realized you could make cheese at home without a cow.
“Not as complicated as you might think,” he assured me. “Ricotta isn’t technically a cheese. It’s a dairy product made from whey. All you need is some whole milk and something for acid, like vinegar or buttermilk.”
“Fila was never interested in cooking.” My mother made this announcement as she finished dicing some tomato and threw it into the salad bowl. “I had to drag her into the kitchen when she was a girl to teach her how to make a proper meal.”
I reached for the wine bottle to top off my glass. “That’s because I wanted to go out and play with my friends instead. You insisted I get all my homework done first, which usually took me until just before dinnertime.”
“Well, those lessons must have paid off, Minnie. Your daughter is a terrific cook now.” Chad paused long enough to kiss my cheek. “What about your other children?”
I answered for her. “Oh, my brothers and sister were expected to learn too. Mom believes in equal opportunity.”
“All my children were taught to be self-sufficient,” my mother announced with pride. “No adult should wander around like a helpless pet waiting to be fed. They know how to make a meal for themselves.”
I almost gushed red wine through my nose. Helpless pet? Not a flattering description, especially since, by her definition, that label could apply to Charles, Chuck, and my father. Charles could only reheat or order in, and Chuck was the same except he could grill and barbecue. As for my dad, he was so lost in the kitchen he could barely find the milk in the refrigerator. It was a good thing the three men were out of earshot in the other room.
Chad spooned chunky tomato sauce and cheese over the stuffed manicotti he now had lined up in a baking pan. “I was hoping Fila’s siblings might come with you. I’d really like to meet them too.”
Knowing my mother, I suspected she’d given my sister, Nikki, an earful after I’d sent my unedited wedding photo. Nikki had already complained to me that since my marriage, our mother had turned the pressure up on her to follow suit. Despite my mom’s reservations about my having three husbands, she’d probably thrown it in Nikki’s face: if I could land three men, she should be able to land one. Minnie Leonard was a master at manipulating her children—for their own good, of course.
“Nikki started a new job, and Frank is off gallivanting around the world as usual.” My mom turned to address me. “Sometimes I think your brother will never settle down. He’s still renting that little efficiency.”
“An efficiency apartment makes sense for him.” Defending him was automatic, though I knew she wouldn’t listen. “And he’s not ‘gallivanting.’ Frank is working. He’s a journalist.”
My mother pursed her lips and returned a skeptical hum. “As for Josef, he’s doing very well at the bank. He’s looking at a possible promotion to regional manager, so he couldn’t afford to take the time off.”
“Joe is up for a promotion?” I smiled, genuinely happy for my older brother. “I hope he gets it. He deserves it, and if I know him, he’ll sock away any extra earnings in a college fund for the kids. I think he has dreams of Ivy League for my nieces.”
Mom looked pleased.
“Okay.” Chad slid the dish of manicotti into the oven and set the timer. “While that bakes, I just need to get the garlic bread done. It looks like you’ve got the salad almost ready, so we’re looking good. More wine, Minnie?”
“Yes, please.” My mother held out her glass. Although she kept her lips in a straight line, I thought I caught a glimmer of appreciation when she looked at Chad.
It would take more than a good meal and good hosting to win her approval, but my charming husband was making headway.