I have shared my love for manicotti in the past– stemming from wonderful memories of enjoying it with my college roommate’s large Italian family on Easter Sunday.
I have made many versions of spinach manicotti, usually filling store-bought manicotti noodles. Using no-boil lasagna noodles instead was a great “less-hassle” shortcut. They were also chosen to mimic the texture of fresh pasta. It was absolutely true! I will never buy manicotti noodles again. 😉
This recipe was adapted from America’s Test Kitchen. I replaced one cup of ricotta cheese with an equivalent amount of chopped, steamed spinach seasoned with freshly grated nutmeg. I also used whole milk ricotta instead of part-skim, part-skim mozzarella instead of whole milk mozzarella, coarse salt instead of table salt, and modified the method. Fabulous.
Yield: Serves 6 to 8
For the Tomato Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons
- 3 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon optional
- coarse salt
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
For the Filling & Pasta:
- 6 oz baby spinach
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste
- 2 cups
- 4 ounces (about 2 cups) (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
- 8 ounces (about 2 cups)
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 16 no-boil lasagna noodles (I used Trader Joe’s)
- Steam the baby spinach until wilted. (I did this on the stove top.)
- Let the spinach cool slightly, then use a potato ricer to remove excess liquid. Coarsely chop. (You should have about 1 cup.) Season with salt and freshly ground nutmeg. Set aside.
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection.
- Make the Sauce: Pulse 1 can tomatoes with their juice in food processor until coarsely chopped, 3 or 4 pulses. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with remaining can tomatoes.
- Heat oil, garlic, and pepper flakes (if using) in large saucepan over medium heat until fragrant but not brown, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.
- Stir in basil; adjust seasoning with salt. Set aside.
- Make the Filling: Combine the chopped spinach, ricotta, 1 cup Parmesan, mozzarella, eggs, salt, pepper, and herbs 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. (I used a pyrex dish.) Let noodles soak until pliable, about 5 to 6 minutes, separating noodles with tip of sharp knife to prevent sticking.
- Remove noodles from water and place in single layer on clean kitchen towels. Do not use paper towels because the noodles may stick. (I used flour sack towels.)
- If using the same dish to bake the manicotti, drain the water and dry the dish. (I used a ceramic baking dish to bake the manicotti instead of using the pyrex dish.)
- Place the preferred baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet. Spread bottom of baking dish evenly with 1 1/2 cups sauce.
- Using a large cookie scoop or a soup spoon, spread 3 to 4 tablespoons of the spinach-cheese filling 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. (It seems like a lot of liquid but it’s necessary for the no-boil noodles to cook properly.)
- To Bake: 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).
- Sprinkle manicotti evenly with remaining 1 cup Parmesan. Return to the oven on the adjusted oven rack; bake for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling.
- Set the oven to broil.
- Broil until cheese is lightly brown or spotty brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Cool 15 minutes, then serve.
Note: The manicotti can be prepared through step 15, covered with a sheet of parchment paper, wrapped in aluminum foil, and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month. (If frozen, thaw the manicotti in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.) To bake, remove the parchment, replace the aluminum foil, and increase baking time to 1 to 1 1/4 hours.
Posted in Casserole, Greens, Pasta, Recipes, Vegetarian
Tags: baby spinach, baked, basil, casserole, cheese, dinner, Italian, lasagna, manicotti, mozzarella, no boil, parmesan, Parmigiano Reggiano, pasta, ricotta, spinach, steamed, vegetarian
I first heard about this spectacularly easy viral pasta dish from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. I think I was the last to know… My daughter has seen countless people make it on TikTok, of course. 😉 She was absolutely thrilled to make it with me!
The original recipe is called “Uunifetapasta,” created by the Finnish blogger Jenni Häyrinen. The foundation of the dish is a block of feta placed in the center of a baking dish surrounded by seasoned tomatoes. After being baked, the cheese and burst tomatoes are combined to create a creamy and delicious sauce to serve over pasta. Deb Perelman incorporated chickpeas in her version- nice.
This version from the Washington Post, contributed by Aaron Hutcherson, recommended using Greek sheep’s milk feta to maximize the creaminess. I used an enameled cast iron baking pan, modified the proportions and incorporated za’atar to the seasoning on the tomatoes prior to baking. It was super creamy and tasty- and as simple and easy to prepare as expected.
Yield: Serves 6
- 3 pints (750 to 800 g) grape or cherry tomatoes
- 5 large garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
- 8 T (1/2 cup) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 block (10.5 oz) Greek feta cheese
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- za’atar, to taste, optional
- 17 to 18 oz medium-length dried pasta, such as campanile, rigatoni, or rotini (I used Gigli)
- fresh basil leaves, for serving
- Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
- In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, combine the tomatoes, garlic and 6 tablespoons of the olive oil. (I used an enameled cast iron baking pan.)
- Sprinkle the tomatoes with some salt and toss to coat. Sprinkle with za’atar, if using.
- Place the feta cheese in the center of the tomatoes and garlic, top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkle the entire dish with red pepper flakes and a little black pepper.
- Bake for about 40 minutes, until the garlic has softened and the tomatoes have burst their skins.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta.
- Remove the baking dish from the oven and stir the feta and tomatoes with a wooden spoon until evenly combined. Taste and adjust seasoning, as necessary.
- Mix the sauce with pasta, adding the reserved pasta water as needed if it looks a little dry. (I incorporated quite a bit of pasta water.)
- To serve, top with plenty of basil leaves.
Posted in Pasta, Recipes, Sauces, Vegetarian
Tags: baked, basil, cheese, cherry tomatoes, easy, feta, gigli, grape tomatoes, Greek, pasta, rigatoni, roasted, rotini, sauce, sheep's milk feta, spaghetti, TikTok, tomatoes, vegetarian, weeknight, Za'atar
WOW. This was amazing. We are battling over the leftovers. 😉
This version of this classic Italian casserole is from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. I added garlic and basil to the tomato sauce and modified the proportions. I found it interesting that breading the eggplant is an Americanized method used to prepare this dish. Hazan only coats the salted and dried eggplant slices with flour prior to frying them.
We ate it with pasta on the side but crusty bread would also be wonderful. Cheesy and delicious.
Yield: Serves 6
- 3 to 3 1/2 pounds eggplant (I used 4 small organic eggplants)
- coarse salt
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced, optional
- 28 oz can canned whole imported Italian plum tomatoes with juice (such as San Marzano), crushed by hand or coarsely chopped
- 3/4 to 1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, preferably buffalo-milk mozzarella (I used cow-milk mozzarella)
- vegetable oil, for frying (I used canola oil)
- all-purpose flour spread on a plate or glass pie dish
- 8 to 10 fresh basil leaves plus 1 sprig for the sauce plus chopped leaves for garnish
- an oven-to-table baking dish, approximately 11 inches by 7 inches or its equivalent (I used a 2-quart baking dish)
- unsalted butter or cooking oil spray for the pan
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- crusty bread or pasta, for serving, optional (I used 1/2 pound penne)
- Cut the green, spiky top off each eggplant and peel it. Cut each eggplant lengthwise into slices about 3/8-inch thick.
- Stand one layer of slices upright against the inside of a pasta colander and sprinkle with salt.
- Stand another layer of slices against it, sprinkle with salt, and repeat the procedure until you have salted all the eggplant you are working with. Place a deep dish under the colander or place the colander in a large bowl to collect the drippings and let the eggplant steep under salt for 30 minutes or more. (This process is important in order to remove excess moisture from the eggplant.)
- Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a pot, turn the heat on to medium, add sliced garlic, if using. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add tomatoes (with juice), basil sprig, and salt; stir, and cooking the tomatoes down until thickened, about 15 minutes.
- While the sauce is cooking, thinly slice the mozzarella.
- Before cooking, pat each slice of eggplant thoroughly dry with paper towels. (I placed all of the eggplant slices in 3 layers (one for each layer of casserole) between slices of paper towels to dry.)
- In a large frying pan, pour enough oil into it to come 1 to 1 1/2 inches up the sides, and turn the heat up to medium-high to high. (I used 45 to 50 oz of canola oil in a 12-inch sauté pan.)
- Working a few slices at a time, with the eggplant thoroughly dried with paper towels, dredge the slices in the flour, coating them on both sides. (Do only a few slices at a time at the moment you are ready to fry them, otherwise the flour coating will become soggy.)
- After coating with flour, fry the eggplant, by slipping as many slices into the pan as will fit loosely without overlapping. Cook to a golden brown color on one side, then turn them and do the other side. Do not turn them more than once. When both sides are done, use a slotted spoon, tongs, or spatula to transfer them to a cooling rack placed over a paper towel-lined rimmed baking sheet to drain or to a platter lined with paper towels.
- Repeat the procedure until all the eggplant is done. If you find the oil becoming too hot, reduce the heat slightly, but do not add more oil to the pan.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. (I set my oven to convection.)
- Wash the basil leaves, and tear each leaf into two or more pieces.
- Smear the bottom and sides of the baking dish with butter or coat with cooking oil spray.
- Put in enough fried eggplant slices to line the bottom of the dish (about 1/3)(the original recipe recommends placing them in a single layer but I used overlapped slices).
- Spread some of the cooked tomato over the first layer of eggplant slices (about 1/3), cover with a layer of mozzarella (about 1/2), sprinkle liberally with grated Parmesan (about 1/3), distribute a few pieces of basil over it (about 1/2), and top with another layer of fried eggplant (another 1/3).
- Repeat the procedure in step 16, ending with a layer of eggplant on top. (3 layers of eggplant with sauce and 2 layers of cheese with basil)
- Sprinkle the top layer of eggplant slices with remaining sauce topped with remaining grated Parmesan (about 1/3), and place the dish in the upper third of the preheated oven.
- Occasionally eggplant Parmesan throws off more liquid as it bakes than you want in the pan. Check after it has been in the oven for 20 minutes by pressing down the layered eggplant with the back of a spoon, and draw off any excess liquid you may find.
- Cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, and after taking it out allow it to settle for several minutes before bringing it to the table.
- Garnish with additional fresh basil, as desired.
Note: Eggplant Parmesan tastes best shortly after it has been made, but if you must, you can complete it from several hours to 2 or 3 days in advance. Refrigerate under plastic wrap when cool. Warm it up on the top-most rack of a preheated 400°F oven.
Posted in Casserole, Recipes, Vegetarian
Tags: basil, casserole, dinner, eggplant, eggplant parmesan, fresh mozzarella, Italian, Marcella Hazan, parmesan, Parmigiano Reggiano, San Marzano, sauce, tomatoes, vegetarian
Baked rice is quick and easy to prepare and is really delicious. This baked rice dish was inspired by prasorizo, the classic Greek rice-and-leek dish. It makes a great vegetarian main dish or a phenomenal side. We ate it as a main dish with rotisserie chicken on the side. 😉 The freshly grated Parmesan really added richness to the meal.
This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Ali Slagle. Almost any vegetable can be incorporated into the dish. I added my beautiful CSA Romanesco cauliflower (with its greens) as well as baby spinach. The original recipe suggests alternatively adding tomatoes, zucchini, and/or broccoli with the leeks, or arugula and/or sliced sugar snap peas after the dish is removed from the oven.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
- 4 to 5 leeks (about 2 pounds), trimmed, white and pale green parts, cut lengthwise & sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 1 lemon
- chopped tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli florets, and/or cauliflower florets, optional (I used Romanesco cauliflower florets)
- 1/4 cup raw almonds (I used raw slivered almonds), or more, to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked white basmati rice
- 1 (15-ounce) can white beans (such as cannellini or great Northern), drained and rinsed
- 2 1/2 cups boiling water or stock
- coarsely chopped spinach and/or arugula, or sliced sugar snap peas (I used 2 cups chopped baby spinach)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced or chopped basil, chives, mint or fennel fronds, plus more for serving
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
- Soak sliced leeks in a bowl of water, remove with a slotted spoon or spider, then shake or pat dry.
- Using a vegetable peeler, peel 1-inch-thick strips of lemon zest, then cut the lemon in half. Cut one half into four wedges and reserve the other half.
- In a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, combine the leeks, lemon zest strips, almonds, red-pepper flakes and olive oil. (I used an enameled cast iron baking dish.)
- If adding chopped tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli, and/or cauliflower, add to the pan with the leeks. (I added Romanesco cauliflower florets.)
- Season generously with salt and pepper, and arrange in an even layer. Roast until the leeks start to caramelize, about 20 minutes.
- Remove and finely chop the lemon zest strips, then stir the zest back into the leek mixture. Arrange in an even layer.
- Sprinkle the rice evenly over the leeks, then top with the beans and 1 teaspoon salt.
- Add the boiling water or stock, then seal the pan tightly with foil.
- Bake until the rice is tender, 20 to 22 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
- If adding spinach and/or arugula, or sliced sugar snap peas, add them in at this time. (I added the Romanesco cauliflower greens, ribs removed and finely sliced, as well as 2 cups of baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped.)
- Squeeze the lemon half over the rice, then stir in Parmesan and herbs.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve with lemon wedges, and more Parmesan and herbs, as desired.
Posted in Quick, Recipes, Sides, Vegetarian
Tags: arugula, baked rice, basil, Basmati rice, broccoli, cannellini beans, casserole, cauliflower, chives, fennel, Great Northern beans, Greek, leeks, legumes, lemon zest, mint, parmesan, prasorizo, Romanesco cauliflower, side, side dish, snap peas, spinach, vegetarian, white beans, zucchini
This dish was also named one of Food and Wine Magazine’s “40 Best” in their 40th anniversary issue. It was super delicious.
The recipe was contributed by Missy Robbins of Lilia in Brooklyn. She was also named a “Best New Chef” in a previous issue. The genius of this dish is that Robbins substitutes chickpeas and kale for pasta in her spicy pomodoro sauce. It still tasted rich and indulgent for a “healthy” dish. I increased the amount of garlic and incorporated my CSA red kale. The inclusion of fennel seeds added subtle sweetness. We ate it with a crusty baguette to soak up all of the sauce- a little bit less healthy but crazy good.
I hope to make this dish repeatedly with my CSA kale. I absolutely love dishes that make kale a crowd-pleaser! 🙂
Yield: Serves 4
- In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over low heat. (I used an enameled cast iron pot.)
- Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until very fragrant
but not browned, about 5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper and a generous pinch of salt. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and
the sauce is thickened, about 25 minutes.
- Stir the kale into the sauce and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in the chickpeas and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt.
- Spoon into bowls and garnish with herbs. Top with finely grated pecorino and serve hot.
Posted in Greens, Quick, Recipes, Soups, Stews, & Chowders, Vegetarian
Tags: basil, beans, chickpeas, dinner, fennel seed, garbanzo beans, Italian, kale, marjoram, pecorino romano, pomodoro, San Marzano, sauce, stew, tomato, vegetarian
Now that it’s the very very tail end of corn season, I have a couple fresh corn recipes to share. I hope I’m not too late. We ate this cheesy dish for dinner but it would be wonderful for brunch as well. I also think that it could be prepared with frozen corn (gasp!) and served as a holiday side dish.
This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Clare de Boer. I used Kosher salt and modified the proportions. I also modified the baking dish (to have more crispy crust) and baking time. The lemony basil oil topping added a bright contrast to the indulgent and delicious dish.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
- 6 ears fresh corn, kernels removed (about 5 cups kernels), cobs discarded
- 2 tsp coarse salt, plus more to taste
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 cups fresh whole milk ricotta
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream
- 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan, divided (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
- 4 large eggs, whites and yolks separated
- coarsely ground black pepper
- 1/3 packed cup fresh basil leaves (about 20 leaves)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)
- In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat.
- Add the corn kernels and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until corn is just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer half the kernels to a food processor and purée with 2 tablespoons olive oil. (I used a Vitamix.)
- Transfer the corn kernels and puréed corn to a large bowl and let cool, about 30 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 450 degrees, preferably on convection.
- When the corn mixture has cooled, add the ricotta, heavy cream, crème fraîche/sour cream, 1 cup Parmesan and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt; season to taste with more salt, if desired.
- Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks on high speed, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Stir the yolks into the ricotta mixture until combined then gently fold in the whites, working delicately to avoid deflating.
- Rub the sides and crannies of a 6-by-10-inch oval or 8-by-8-inch square (or similar 2-inch-deep) baking dish with a knob of butter. (I used a 8×10-inch oval dish.) Add 2 to 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan, knocking it around the baking dish to coat the entire thing, then follow with a few grinds of pepper.
- Pour the ricotta batter into the dish. Bake for 25 minutes and then remove from oven and top with another 3 tablespoons Parmesan. Continue to bake until the cheese has browned and the sformata has set in the center, about 5 additional minutes, a total of 30 to 40 minutes.
- Using a mortar and pestle, grind the basil with the lemon juice and a pinch of salt, then stir in the remaining 1/4 cup oil.
- Just before serving, top the warm sformata with the remaining grated Parmesan, drizzle with basil oil and serve.
Posted in Casserole, Recipes, Sides, Thanksgiving, Vegetarian
Tags: basil, brunch, casserole, corn, creme fraiche, dinner, eggs, Italian, lemon, parmesan, ricotta, side, side dish, soufflé, summer, Thanksgiving, vegetarian
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This refreshing summer cocktail was another way to use my beautiful basil and special homegrown cucumbers from a friend. There is still time to enjoy one! 🙂
This recipe was adapted from liquor.com. It is an adaptation of a classic gin gimlet which is composed of gin, lime juice and simple syrup.
Yield: One cocktail
- 1 1/2 ounces vodka or gin
- 2 1/4-inch slices cucumber, peeled
- 2 fresh basil leaves. plus more for garnish
- 1 ounce lemonade
- 1/4 to 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice, to taste
- Muddle the basil and cucumber in a shaker.
- Add remaining ingredients and ice and shake.
- Strain into a rocks glass over ice.
- Garnish with a basil leaf. Serve.
Posted in Drinks, Recipes
Tags: basil, cocktail, cucumber, drink, gimlet, gin, lemonade, lime juice, summer, vodka