Many, many years ago I got it in my head that for the entire 40 Days of Lent, we would not eat meat. As in none. Fridays were reserved strictly for Fish or Seafood, the rest of the week something meatless (like cheese pizza). The one exception was Sunday Supper, since Sundays are not counted as part of the 40-Days. Even then, I made attempts to limit the meat consumption.
We failed. Life, hectic work schedules, so many things got in the way, including weakness and giving in to temptation. Let me tell you, after about 10 days a hot dog in the middle of the week was as tempting as Filet Mignon. Vegetarians we are not.
Still, it was a good experiment and I did pick up a nice assortment of non-meat; non-fish dishes along the way. That collection is always expanding.
In our house, Thursdays (most of the time) are known as Tuscan Thursday – a day for anything Italian, be it authentically Italian or simply influenced by Italian Cuisine. This dish is in the spirit of Tuscany cooking. It is great as part of Lenten Fridays, or Tuscan Thursdays or just because.
Creamy Avocado Manicotti
1 (8 oz) package Manicotti Shells
Heat oven to 350-degrees. Lightly grease a 13-inch by 9-inch baking dish and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook Manicotti according to package directions. Drain Manicotti shells and set aside until ready to fill.
While the water boils and the shells cook, make the tomato sauce and filling.
Crushed Tomato Sauce
1 small Onion
2 Garlic Cloves
1/2 cup fresh Basil
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 (28 oz) can Crushed Italian Tomatoes
1/3 cup Dry Red Wine
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
Peel and finely chop the onion, set aside. Peel and finely mince the garlic, set aside. Finely mince the basil, set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the oil, the saute onions. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the canned tomatoes, basil, and wine. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spread 1 cup of the crushed tomato sauce into the greased dish. Set aside, keeping the remaining sauce warm.
Make the avocado filling.
1 medium ripe Avocado
1 (15 oz) container Ricotta Cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/8 teaspoon White Pepper
1 cup Mozzarella Cheese
Peel and pit the avocado, dice into pieces. In a small bowl, mash the avocado smooth. Combine the avocado mash with the Ricotta and Parmesan cheeses. Season with salt and pepper. Stuff avocado mixture into Manicotti shells. Arrange the shells over the sauce in the prepared baking dish. Pour remaining sauce over top.
Cover and bake in the heated oven for 35 minutes or until bubbly. Uncover; sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake 10-15 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.
1 medium ripe avocado, sliced, optional
If desired, garnish each plate with some avocado slices when serving.