Spinach Manicotti

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. ūüėČ

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¬†28-ounce cans diced tomatoes with¬†juice
  • 2 tablespoons¬†extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 to 6¬†cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2¬†teaspoon¬†hot red pepper flakes,¬†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¬†whole milk ricotta cheese (can substitute part-skim ricotta)
  • 4 ounces (about 2 cups)¬†grated Parmesan cheese, divided¬†(I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 8 ounces (about 2 cups)¬†shredded mozzarella cheese (I used part-skim mozzarella)
  • 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)
  1. Steam the baby spinach until wilted. (I did this on the stove top.)
  2. 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.
  3. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection.
  4. 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.
  5. Heat oil, garlic, and pepper flakes (if using) in large saucepan over medium heat until fragrant but not brown, 1 to 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.
  7. Stir in basil; adjust seasoning with salt. Set aside.
  8. Make the Filling: Combine the chopped spinach, ricotta, 1 cup Parmesan, mozzarella, eggs, salt, pepper, and herbs in medium bowl; set aside.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.)
  11. 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.)
  12. Place the preferred baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet. Spread bottom of baking dish evenly with 1 1/2 cups sauce.
  13. 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.
  14. Roll into tube shape and arrange in baking dish seam side down.
  15. 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.)
  16. To Bake: Cover manicotti with aluminum foil. Bake until bubbling, about 40 minutes, then remove foil.
  17. Remove baking dish, adjust oven rack to uppermost position (about 6 inches from heating element).
  18. 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.
  19. Set the oven to broil.
  20. 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.

Butternut Squash, Sage, & Ricotta Manicotti

I made this baked pasta dish to serve on Thanksgiving Eve. My Mother-in-Law asked that I post the recipe so that she could make it to serve to vegetarian guests. It was such a compliment! This post is quite belated- oops. :/

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living’s Everyday Food. I used manicotti noodles instead of lasagna and modified the proportions. I boiled the squash in the salted pasta water but may roast it instead next time to enhance its flavor. It was cheesy, creamy, and rich comfort food.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

  • 6 T olive oil, plus more for baking dish
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (8 oz each) packages manicotti (there will be leftover noodles)
  • 1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 4 large shallots, chopped
  • 3/4 cup milk (I used whole milk)
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh sage leaves, plus 16 to 20 whole leaves
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 (15 oz each) containers of whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Lightly oil a 9×13-inch baking dish. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  3. In a large pot of boiling, generously salted water, cook pasta until al dente. Using tongs, transfer pasta to a rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Add squash to boiling water and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain squash and transfer to a bowl. (Alternatively, the squash can be roasted at 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast, until lightly browned and tender, about 25 to 35 minutes.)
  5. In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium. Add shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
  6. Transfer sautéed shallots to the bowl with the squash and add 4 tablespoons milk, chopped sage, and nutmeg; season with salt and pepper. Mash with a fork until a rough puree forms.
  7. Fill a gallon ziplock bag with the squash mixture. Cut an opening in one bottom corner of the bag, large enough to fit the opening of the manicotti noodles.
  8. Pipe the squash mixture into the manicotti noodles, about 1/4 cup each. Place each filled noodle into the prepared baking dish. (I had 8 cooked noodles leftover.)
  9. In a bowl, combine ricotta, 1 cup Parmesan, and 1/2 cup milk and season with salt and pepper.
  10. Spread ricotta mixture over cannelloni and top with remaining 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan.
  11. Bake until warmed through, about 25 minutes.
  12. Broil until top is browned, 2 to 3 minutes.
  13. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium to medium-high. Fry whole sage leaves until crispy, 15 to 20 seconds. Drain on paper towels.
  14. Serve the casserole topped with fried sage.

Three Cheese Crepe Manicotti

During my college days, I was lucky enough to celebrate¬†Easter with one of my roommates and her large Italian family. It was always an amazing feast. One of the first courses served was a homemade manicotti. I’ve loved it ever since- and now think of it in the springtime.

I was drawn to the “French” twist in this version, using cr√™pes in lieu of pasta. They were tender and delicious. Lovely.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine contributed by Christine Dimmick. I adjusted the seasoning and ratios. I also modified the cr√™pe batter technique from using a blender to hand-whisking, and to cooking them on a lightly oiled cr√™pe pan, my tried and true method. This dish could be modified to include any variety of fillings in the cr√™pes. Next time I may incorporate spinach or mushrooms. ūüôā

  • 2 cups ricotta cheese (15 ounces), preferably fresh
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella (about 6 ounces)(part-skim okay)
  • 2/3 cup coarsely chopped basil, plus more for garnish
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 5 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • vegetable oil, for the pans
  • 3 cups tomato sauce, preferably homemade¬†(I used local Mamma Lombardi’s Marinara Sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  1. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta with the mozzarella, basil, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and the pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning, to taste.
  2. In a bowl, whisk the flour and eggs until thoroughly combined. Add the water and a generous 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Whisk until smooth.
  3. Heat an 8-inch crêpe or omelet pan over moderately high heat. Using a brush, lightly oil the pan and add a small ladle of the batter (about 1/4 cup); working quickly, swirl the pan to coat it evenly.
  4. Cook until the top of the crêpe is dry and the bottom is lightly golden, about 1 minute. Flip the crêpe and cook until the bottom is lightly golden, about 20 seconds longer.
  5. Transfer the crêpe to a large plate and repeat with the remaining batter to make a total of 16 crêpes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375¬į, preferably on convection.
  7. Coat the bottom of a 3-quart baking dish with 1 cup of the tomato sauce.
  8. Arrange the crêpes on a work surface. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the ricotta filling in a line down the center of each crêpe. Loosely roll up the crêpes, burrito-style with ends folded in, and arrange them, seam side up, side by side in the baking dish. (I placed them in 2 rows of 8 crêpes.)
  9. Pour the remaining 2 cups of tomato sauce over the manicotti and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
  10. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until the tomato sauce is bubbling and the manicotti are heated through.
  11. Garnish with basil, if desired. Serve piping hot.

Make Ahead: The unbaked manicotti can be refrigerated overnight. Allow up to 15 minutes longer for baking.

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