Mmm...toasty baked mozzarella cheese on top of tomato sauce!
I browned some sweet Italian sausage with a chopped onion, a chopped green pepper, and a handful of chopped mushrooms. When the veggies were softened somewhat and the sausage was cooked through, I poured the mixture into a mesh strainer to drain the excess fat. I wiped the pan out and added a 28oz can of tomato puree, a pinch of salt, a bigger pinch of sugar, some garlic powder, oregano and thyme. I mixed the meat and veggie mixture back into the sauce and let it simmer on low while I boiled the manicotti for about 7 minutes. I drained the pasta and let it cool while I mixed the filling: 3.5 cups of ricotta cheese, one egg, a handful of a parmesan and romano cheese blend, some chopped fresh parsley and some dried oregano.
I sprayed a glass baking dish with cooking spray and preheated the oven to 425 degrees. I spooned the filling into a piping bag and carefully filled each pasta shell, lining them up in the baking dish as I went along. When all 12 were filled, I spooned the sauce over the top and covered it with a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese. The manicotti baked for 15 minutes at 425 (everything's already cooked, it's mostly just to warm through and let the flavors combine), then another 5 minutes under the broiler to toast the cheese on top.
The pasta broke up a little as I was spooning it out of the pan, but it still looked good and tasted awesome! Also, look! A GARNISH! Do I get extra points for that? ;)