Val and Roe talk about Jussie Smollett verdict, holiday binge drinking and Italian food

CHICAGO (WLS) -- This week on Windy City Weekend, our friend Roe Conn, fills in for Ryan! Val and Roe talk about Jussie Smollett being found guilty of lying to the Chicago Police Department about a hate crime.

How much is too much when it comes to holiday drinking? Hosts discuss how to prevent binge drinking this season.

In the kitchen with Alessi



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Home Chef Mario Manfredini brings a fresh Italian dish to Windy City Weekend!



Our home chef, Mario Manfredini, brings a fresh Italian dish to Windy City Weekend!

Mario is the Battalion Chief of the Berwyn Firehouse. This January will be his 25th anniversary at the fire station! For the third consecutive year, the Berwyn native has won the "First Responders Cooking Challenge" to help the Chicago Firefighters Women and Orphans Fund. We sent Mario to the Brookhaven Market in Burr Ridge to pick up ingredients for his famous manicotti and meatballs! Mario makes these dishes with his own marinara sauce which you can find on mariosmarinara.com.

Mario's manicotti ingredients:
Tomato sauce:
2 28-ounce cans Alessi Diced Tomatoes (in juice)
2 tablespoons of Alessi Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
Alessi Sea Salt (to taste)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Filling and pasta:
3 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 large eggs beaten
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry, and chopped fine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Pinch of fresh ground nutmeg
2 boxes of Alessi Precook Lasagna Noodles (may not use all)

Mario's manicotti preparation:
For the sauce: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Pulse 1 can tomatoes with their juice in food processor until coarsely chopped, 3 or 4 pulses. Transfer to bowl. Repeat with remaining can tomatoes. Heat oil, garlic, and pepper flakes in large saucepan over medium heat until fragrant but not brown, one to two minutes. Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Stir in basil; adjust seasoning with salt.

For the filling: Combine ricotta, 1 cup Parmesan, mozzarella, eggs, spinach, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, basil, and nutmeg in medium bowl; set aside.

To assemble: Pour 1-inch boiling water into 13 by 9-inch broiler safe baking dish, then add noodles one at a time. Let noodles soak until pliable, about 5 minutes, separating noodles with tip of sharp knife to prevent sticking. Remove noodles from water and place in single layer on clean kitchen towels; discard water in baking dish and dry baking dish. Spread bottom of baking dish evenly with 1 1/2 cups sauce. Using soupspoon, spread generous 1/4 cup cheese-spinach mixture evenly onto bottom three-quarters of each noodle (with short side facing you), leaving top quarter of noodle exposed. Roll into tube shape and arrange in baking dish seam side down. Top evenly with remaining sauce, making certain that pasta is completely covered.

For cooking: Cover manicotti with aluminum foil. Bake until bubbling, about 40 minutes, then remove foil. Remove baking dish, adjust oven rack to uppermost position (about 6 inches from heating element), and heat broiler. Sprinkle manicotti evenly with remaining 1 cup Parmesan. Broil until cheese is spotty brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Cool 15 minutes, then serve.

Mario's meatballs ingredients:
2 1/2 cups of Alessi Italian Style Breadcrumbs
1-1/2 cups of buttermilk
cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, chopped fine
3 large egg yolks
1-1/2 teaspoon of Alessi sea salt
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
1-pound ground beef
1-pound ground pork
1-pound ground veal
1-1/2 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Mario's meatballs preparation:
Sautee onions and garlic in small sauce pan until translucent, allow to cool. Combine cooled onion and garlic mixture with breadcrumbs, buttermilk, parsley, egg yolk, salt, and red pepper flakes in a bowl and mash with fork until no bread chunks remain. Add ground meats, and cheese to the bread mixture; mix with hands until thoroughly combined. Divide mixture equally and roll into balls, yields approximately 30 meatballs. Transfer to a plate, cover with plastic and refrigerate until ready to use.

Cooking instructions: Heat cup of Alessi olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add meatballs in batches and cook until browned all over, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer meatballs to paper towel lined plate to drain. Transfer browned meatballs to "Mario's Marinara" and gently submerge while sauce is simmering on stove-top. Cover and continue cooking until meatballs are just cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Author Ken Linder



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Author Ken Linder talks about his new book, "Aspire Higher."



Author Ken Linder talks to Windy City Weekend about his new book, "Aspire Higher." "Aspire Higher" serves as guide on how to find the love, positivity, and purpose to elevate your life. Linder has developed a formula and provides achievable, tangible, and actionable steps in hopes to equip and empower the reader to lay a path to soul-lifting, enduring self-love and feelings of high self-esteem and self-worth.

Spend or Save?



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