The sun is finally shining in Michigan-yay! We had a rainy spring and I'm so glad to see daylight once again! Even though I'm having a case of spring fever, I'm still craving comfort food recipes. This may seem like an odd choice for a late spring blog post, but if you have some fresh herbs blooming in your garden, you can put those to use in this Sausage and Kale Manicotti recipe. I didn't use fresh herbs, as my garden wasn't intact when I created this recipe, but they will certainly add freshness and a colorful splash to your recipe. That's exactly why I chose Kale to incorporate into this dish. It's lively, fun, and fresh. When cooked, it doesn't have a strong bite to it, as it might in a salad. And it goes well with the Italian spices in the sausages, so that is another big plus of "going green" in this recipe.
So, whether the sun is shining or you're in your flannel jammies reading this post, this is a great all-season recipe. It's hearty and fresh and combines some of my favorite winter and spring flavors. Enjoy!
One 8 ounce box manicotti; 1 pound Italian mild ground sausage; 2 tablespoons olive oil; one chopped yellow onion; two 24 ounce jars sausage flavored pasta sauce; once 15 ounce container ricotta cheese; 2 cups chopped kale plus 1/3 cup for garnish; 2 cups shredded Italian blend cheese; 3 cloves garlic; 2 tablespoons basil; one tablespoon oregano; 1/4 tsp. garlic salt; 1/4 tsp. pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage. Cook until browned and crumbly. Add the garlic, onion, basil, oregano, garlic salt, pepper and kale. Cook one additional minute. Remove from heat. Drain the grease. Add the ricotta cheese to the sausage. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the two jars of pasta sauce. Add 1 and1/2 cups of the sauce to the sausage and cheese filling. Stir until combined. Set aside. Boil water in a large saucepan over high heat. Turn heat to medium. Add manicotti and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and drain the water. Pour 1/4 cup of pasta sauce into a 9x13 inch baking dish. Fill the manicotti shells with the filling. Place each shell side by side in the pan, making two rows if enough room. Pour remaining sauce over the shells. Sprinkle with Italian cheese and 1/3 cup chopped kale. Cover and bake for 1/2 hour. Uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted on top.