Manicotti is a great dish to serve for Shavuot.  Dairy dishes are a traditional part of the meal for the holiday because the laws for Kashrut were contained in the Torah which was given at Mount Sinai. Another good reason for serving milk and milk products like cheese is it was spring and the goats and sheep were eating sweet grass and producing abundant milk.

For centuries Jewish cooks have told stories with their food preparation.  Two tubes of pasta or filled crepes (blintzes) placed side by side on a plate  resemble the Torah scrolls which were given to Moses on Mount Sinai and we  celebrate the giving of the Torah on Shavuot.

Manicotti with Tomato Sauce

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 28 ounce can recipe ready tomatoes
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon or more sugar to taste

1 box manicotti shells
1 pound ricotta
1/2 pound mozzarella, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 teaspoons sugar
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Generous pinch of nutmeg
1.    To make the sauce, heat a 3 quart saucepan over high heat for 15 seconds.  Add the olive oil and heat for 10 seconds.  Add the onions to the hot oil and sauté for 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté the mixture until lightly golden. Do not allow garlic to burn or sauce will be bitter.

2.    Add the remaining sauce ingredients and simmer uncovered for 20-30 or until sauce is thick.

3.    Meanwhile, cook the manicotti shells according to package directions.  Drain and pour cold water over the shells.  Let them sit in the water while you make the filling.

4.    Combine all of the ingredients for the filling in a bowl.

5.    Place a large, plain (#6) tip into a 14 inch pastry bag.  Fold the top of the bag downward to create a 4 inch cuff around the top of the bag. Rest the bag in your hand with your fingers underneath the cuff and the tip touching the countertop. Spoon the filling into the bag.  Unfold the cuff up to enclose the filling.  Bring the top edges together and pleat them closed so no filling oozes out the top.  Place the bag in the crook between your thumb and forefinger and twist the bag until the cheese mixture tightly fills the bag near the tip.

6.    Holding a drained tube in your other hand, place the tip of the bag inside of the tube and squeeze filling the tube from the center out.  Turn the tube around and fill the remaining half of the pasta.

7.    Place some of the sauce in a 13 x 9 baking dish.  As you fill the manicotti, place them in the dish.  When all manicotti are filled, pour the remaining sauce on top, sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese, and bake for 30 minutes at 350F or until bubbling.

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