Basil is prominently featured in Italian cooking. It is available fresh in the summer months and is prized for its large aromatic leaves, which may be chopped and added to sauces or salads.

    1 (8-ounce) packet manicotti noodles

Meat Sauce

     2 pounds lean ground beef
    ½ cup chopped yellow onion
    ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
    2 tablespoons dried basil
    2 teaspoons salt
    ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
    2 garlic cloves, crushed in a garlic press
    1 (12-ounce) can tomato paste
    3 cups water

Cheese Filling

    3 cups ricotta cheese
    2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
    3 ounces grated parmesan cheese
    4 large eggs
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
    ½ teaspoon salt
    ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
    ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1.  Bring water to a boil in a 12-quart stockpot. Cook noodles in
     salted water. When al dente, cool in cold water so the noodles
     will be easier to handle.

2.  Meat sauce: In a 5-quart nonstick sauté pan, brown the beef
     then add onions. Add the parsley, basil, salt, pepper, garlic,
     tomato paste and water. Simmer 15 minutes.

3.  Cheese filling: In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, 2 cups
     mozzarella, parmesan, eggs, parsley, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

4.  Pour a third of the meat sauce into a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass
     baking dish. Fill pasta with cheese mixture and arrange on the
     sauce. Top with the rest of the sauce and sprinkle with 1 cup
     mozzarella cheese.

5.  Bake in a preheated 350°
oven for 45 minutes.

     Hint: Serve with a green salad and garlic bread.

     Makes 6 servings