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.

Stovetop Mushroom Lasagna

This easy and creamy vegetarian stovetop lasagna was very well received by my family. ūüėČ The original recipe said that it wasn’t as pretty as a typical baked and layered lasagna, but I thought that it looked pretty appealing.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Sarah Jampel. I increased the amount of mushrooms and garlic. I also used no-boil lasagna noodles. It is a perfect weeknight dish.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 5 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 12 to 16 oz mixed mushrooms (such as maitake, oyster, shiitake, and/or crimini), trimmed, cut or torn into 1″ pieces (I used stemmed & quartered cremini mushrooms)
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 2¬†T thyme leaves
  • 1¬†large shallot, finely chopped
  • 3 to 6¬†garlic cloves, finely grated or chopped
  • 2¬†T all-purpose flour
  • 2 3/4 cups whole milk
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • lemon zest, plus wedges for serving, optional
  • 1/3 cup cr√®me fra√ģche or thinned sour cream
  • 8 to 9 oz regular lasagna noodles, broken in half (no-boil okay)
  • 4 to 5 oz mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • finely grated Parmesan, for serving
  1. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large high-sided ovenproof skillet (preferably with a lid) or small Dutch oven over medium-high. (I used a large, wide enameled cast iron pot.)
  2. Add mushrooms and cook, undisturbed, until starting to brown, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and cook, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 5‚Äď7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; mix in thyme.
  3. Meanwhile, finely chop the shallot and garlic cloves in the bowl of a mini food processor.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the pan. Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring, until starting to soften, about 1 minute.
  5. Sprinkle flour over and cook, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute.
  6. Add milk, pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1 3/4 cups water, then finely grate zest of 1/4 lemon into pan. Stir to dissolve flour, increase heat to medium, and cook until gently bubbling.
  7. Reduce heat to low, whisk in cr√®me fra√ģche (or sour cream), and stir to combine.
  8. Add about one third of noodles, pushing down into sauce to submerge, followed by a third of the mushrooms.
  9. Repeat with half of remaining noodles and mushrooms.
  10. Top with another layer of noodles. **Set remaining mushrooms aside.**
  11. Cover with a lid or foil and cook 15 minutes. (If lasagna threatens to boil over, use very lowest heat and/or prop open the cover.)
  12. Uncover; cook, gently lifting and separating noodles occasionally with tongs or a spatula to let sauce flow around, until sauce is thickened and noodles are cooked through, 6‚Äď10 minutes. Mixture should be bubbling gently; adjust heat as necessary. Remove from heat.
  13. Heat broiler. Top lasagna with mozzarella and reserved mushrooms.
  14. Broil until cheese is bubbling and browned in spots, about 2 minutes.
  15. Finely grate more lemon zest over. Sprinkle with Parmesan; season with pepper.
  16. Let sit 5‚Äď10 minutes. Cut lemon into wedges, if desired, and serve with lasagna.

Spinach Lasagna

Compared to the dish in my last post, my family prefers to eat leafy greens in this fashion. (I love greens in every fashion!) Cheesy pasta casseroles definitely make greens a crowd-pleaser. ūüôā

This vegetarian lasagna was absolutely fabulous. The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Mark Bittman. I incorporated nutmeg, garlic, and an egg into the ricotta mixture, incorporated Pecorino-Romano cheese, and used no-boil noodles. I also modified the baking method. Yum.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

  • 16¬†dried (no-boil) or fresh lasagna noodles
  • 3 to 4¬†cups good tomato sauce (I used 28 oz jar Rao’s marinara)
  • 2¬†tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds¬†spinach, steamed, squeezed dry and chopped¬†(about 3¬†cups cooked)
  • 12 oz (1 1/2¬†cups) whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 large garlic cloves, pushed through a garlic press
  • 1 1/2¬†cups coarsely grated mozzarella
  • 2¬†cups finely grated Parmesan (I used 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and 1 cup Pecorino-Romano)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. If you’re using fresh pasta sheets, cut them into long wide noodles approximately 3 inches by 13 inches, or a size that will fit into your lasagna dish. (I used 16 dried no-boil lasagna noodles from Trader Joe’s)
  2. Steam the spinach until wilted, and drain. (I steamed it in a large pasta pot for 3-4 minutes.) In batches, use a potato ricer to remove excess liquid. Coarsely chop.
  3. Combine the ricotta, egg, nutmeg, and garlic in a bowl.
  4. Heat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  5. Grease a rectangular baking dish with the olive oil, add a large dollop of tomato sauce and spread it around.
  6. Put a layer of noodles (use four per layer) in the dish; top with a layer of tomato sauce, one-third of the spinach, and one-fourth of the ricotta mixture (in dollops), the mozzarella, and the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
  7. Repeat the layers twice.
  8. Top with the remaining noodles, tomato sauce, ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan; the top should be covered with cheese; add more ricotta and Parmesan as needed. (The lasagna may be made ahead to this point, wrapped tightly and refrigerated for up to a day or frozen. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.)
  9. Cover with parchment paper topped with aluminum foil. Bake for 25 minutes.
  10. Uncover, and continue to bake until the lasagna is bubbling and the cheese is melted and lightly browned on top, about 15 minutes more.
  11. Remove from the oven and let rest a few minutes before serving.

Note: Lasagna can be baked, cooled completely, covered well, and refrigerated for up to 3 days, or stored in the freezer.

Sourdough Mozzarella Grandma Pizza Pie

This is a sourdough version of one our favorite pizzas. When we order a pizzeria pizza, it is almost always a Grandma pie. The sauce makes it extra delicious.

This pillowy crust is absolutely perfect for a Grandma pie. I have made it several times now, and have used the crust for classic homemade pies as well. I was able to shape the dough into either form extremely easily just using my fingertips.

The crust recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour. I incorporated white whole wheat flour and modified the technique and baking temperature. The sauce is from Bon Appetit, contributed by Alfia Muzio, and is included in my Classic Grandma Pie post. According to the original recipe, this crust is also delicious with bold toppings and well-aged cheeses.

I included some active dry yeast in the crust, but plan to try it without, using fed sourdough starter instead of unfed, now that my sourdough starter is really active. The crust can also be made with sourdough discard.

I have made the dough two hours prior to baking the pizza, but the dough can be made a day in advance and put in the refrigerator to rise overnight. I also doubled the recipe on a few occasions to try various toppings (and to have leftovers!).

Yield: One Grandma Pie (half sheet pan) or Two 12-inch round Thin-Crust Pies

(Double the recipe to make Two Grandma Pies or Three 14-inch round Classic Pies)

For the Pizza Crust & Toppings:

  1. Stir any liquid on top of your refrigerated starter back into it before measuring 1 cup (241g) into a large mixing bowl. Note: This is a good opportunity to feed the remainder of your starter, if necessary.
  2. Add the warm water, flours, salt, and yeast. Mix to combine, then knead for about 7 minutes in a mixer with the dough hook, until the dough wraps itself around the hook and cleans the side of the bowl.
  3. Place the dough in a greased container, cover and let rise until almost doubled in bulk. Depending on the vitality of your starter, this will take between 2 and 4 hours. For a faster rise, place the dough in a warm spot, or double the yeast. (I placed my dough in a warming drawer and it doubled in about 2 hours.)
  4. Towards the end of the rise time, preheat your oven to 500¬įF. (I heat a baking stone in the bottom of the oven.)
  5. For a thicker, large pizza- a Grandma Pie, oil an 18″ x 13″ half-sheet pan. Place the dough in the selected pan and press it out to the edges, again giving it a 15-minute rest before continuing if it starts to snap back.¬†(For two thin-crust pizzas, divide the dough in half, and shape each into a flattened disk. Drizzle two 12″ round pizza pans with olive oil, and brush to coat the bottom. (I used a pizza peel and pizza stone to make classic pizzas instead.) Place the dough in the pans, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes. After this rest, gently press the dough toward the edges of the pans. If it starts to shrink back, cover and let rest for 15 minutes before continuing.)
  6. Cover the pan(s) and let the dough rise until it’s as thick as you like. (It will rise quite a bit in 30 minutes. I just let it rest while preparing the toppings.)
  7. While the dough is rising, make the sauce. (see recipe below)
  8. Once dough has risen on baking sheet, top with mozzarella, and dot pie with tomato sauce; sprinkle with salt and red pepper flakes, if desired. Add any additional toppings, if desired.
  9. Bake the Grandma Pie until golden brown and crisp on bottom and sides, 15‚Äď30 minutes. (Bake traditional pies for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly browned.)

Note: Store leftover pizza covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

For the Fresh Tomato Pizza Sauce:

  • 1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, drained (I used San Marzano)
  • 2 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic cloves
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¬ľ cup fresh basil leaves, packed
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Pulse tomatoes, anchovies, garlic, oil, and basil in a food processor or blender until mostly smooth (some texture is okay).
  2. Season with salt and pepper.

Greens with Tomatoes, Creamed Mozzarella & Wild Rice

While my kids were away at sleep away camp over the summer (for one week), my sweet husband encouraged me to make dishes that were loaded with my favorite greens, etc. (dishes that may not have thrilled my kids!) Don’t worry, we also went out to eat. ūüôā

I had wanted to make this dish after reading about how the recipe creates a faux burrata- genius! This recipe was adapted from Epicurious.com, contributed by Abra Berens. I substituted my beautiful CSA chard for the kale. This dish would also be delicious using true burrata, of course. ūüėČ I used pre-sliced fresh mozzarella but would use torn pieces from a ball of fresh mozzarella next time. It would have improved the burrata hack. Any cooked grain could be substituted for the wild rice as well.

We ate this dish as a main course, but it would also be a nice side dish or salad course.

Yield: Serves 2 to 4 as a main course

  • 1 small yellow onion or 1/2 large yellow onion, cut into thin slices
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine or ros√©
  • 1 cup wild rice, soaked overnight in 4 cups water¬†(can substitute farro, quinoa, brown rice, etc.)
  • 1 bunch (4 cups) red or rainbow chard¬†or kale, midribs stripped, cut into 1/4-inch ribbons
  • 1 ball (8 oz, 1/2 pound) fresh mozzarella
  • 4 T sour cream (or yogurt or creme fraiche)
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 pint (2 cups) grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  1. Soak the wild rice overnight in 4 cups of water. (The soaking liquid is used to cook the rice.)
  2. Heat a glug of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Sweat the onion and garlic with the salt until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the white wine and reduce by half.
  4. Add the wild rice and the soaking liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, about 45 minutes.
  5. In a mixing bowl, sprinkle the chard/kale with a pinch of salt. Massage until the greens are dark green, limp, and tender in mouthfeel.
  6. Tear the mozzarella into rough chunks.
  7. Combine with the sour cream, lemon zest and juice, a good pinch of salt, and a couple of grinds of black pepper.
  8. When the wild rice is cooked, drain any residual liquid and let cool.
  9. Toss the tomatoes, kale, and wild rice together with a couple glugs of olive oil and a pinch of salt.
  10. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  11. Dot with the creamed mozzarella and serve.
Note: The amount of time it takes to tenderize raw greens will vary depending on the age of the plant. The tougher the leaves, the longer it will take. Along the way, taste an individual leaf‚ÄĒonce it is easily chewable, you‚Äôre done.

Basil Chicken Saltimbocca with Marinated Tomatoes & Mozzarella

We gobbled up the original version of this classic Italian dish when it was published in Bon Appétit. I had to try this summery version of the same dish. It was absolutely incredible.

This recipe was adapted from Half Baked Harvest.com. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts, increased the amount of garlic, and substituted ciliegine mozzarella balls for the burrata. It is an amazing adaptation of the original recipe.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 6 cloves garlic, grated
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup fresh basil, approximately, divided
  • 10¬†thin slices prosciutto
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3 T¬†extra virgin olive oil, plus more for cooking
  • 2¬†T¬†balsamic vinegar
  • 2¬†T¬†fresh thyme leaves, optional
  • zest of 1 lemon, optional
  • 4 oz ciliegine mozzarella balls or 3 balls burrata cheese, torn
  1. Working one at a time, place the chicken thighs between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Pound to achieve even thickness.
  2. Place the eggs and Panko in separate shallow bowls. (I used glass pie dishes.)
  3. Rub the chicken with garlic (1 clove per chicken thigh) and season with salt and pepper.
  4. One at a time, press 2 basil leaves on top of each chicken thigh.
  5. Wrap 2 pieces (1 1/2 pieces if small) of prosciutto around each cutlet to secure the basil.
  6. Dredge both sides of the chicken through the egg and then through the Panko, pressing gently to adhere. Place the chicken on a plate.
  7. Make the marinated tomatoes: In a bowl, toss together the tomatoes, 3 tablespoons olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, 1/2 cup fresh basil (chiffonade), and a pinch of salt, as well as the thyme and lemon zest, if using. (I omitted the thyme and lemon zest.) Add the cheese, if using ciliegine. Toss to combine. Set aside.
  8. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high.
  9. When the oil shimmers, add the chicken and cook until the bottom side is golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.
  10. Carefully flip the chicken and cook until golden brown on the other side, about 3-4 minutes.
  11. Transfer to a plate and lightly season with salt.
  12. Serve the chicken warm topped with the mozzarella/burrata and marinated tomatoes.

Cauliflower Parmesan

I have made this wonderfully cheesy dish a couple of times already- just to get the proportions right. I knew that I had to increase the amount of simple and flavorful sauce after making it the first time.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I lightened the dish by baking the cauliflower after coating it instead of frying it. We ate it over linguini fini with sautéed broccoli rabe on the side. Wonderful!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 6 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4¬†teaspoon red Chile flakes, optional
  • 3¬†(28-ounce) cans whole or diced plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 3¬†sprigs basil or 1 bay leaf
  • 3/4¬†teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • scant 1/2¬†teaspoon black pepper
  • Parmesan rind, optional
  1. In a large, straight-sided skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. (I used an enameled cast iron pot with a glass lid.)
  2. Add garlic and cook until just lightly golden.
  3. Add chile flakes if desired and cook 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in tomatoes and juices, basil or bay leaf, and salt and pepper.
  5. Bring sauce to a simmer, add the Parmesan rind, if using, and cook until sauce is thick and tomatoes have mostly fallen apart, about 30 to 40 minutes. Adjust heat as needed to keep at a steady simmer. If using whole plum tomatoes, mash them up with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher to help them break down.
  6. Remove sauce from heat and discard basil or bay leaf.

For the Cauliflower & To Finish the Dish:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups panko or plain unseasoned bread crumbs
  • Kosher salt, as needed
  • freshly ground black pepper, as needed
  • 1¬†large or 2 small/medium heads cauliflower, trimmed and cut into 2-inch florets (I used 1 small and 1 medium)
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • Simple Tomato Sauce (recipe above)
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 3/4 pound fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-size pieces
  • linguine fini or other pasta, optional, for serving
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Place flour, eggs, and panko into three wide, shallow bowls. (I used glass pie dishes.) Season each generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Dip a cauliflower piece first in flour, then eggs, then coat with panko. Repeat with remaining cauliflower.
  4. Place on 2 parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheets. Roast coated florets for 22-24 minutes, or until nicely browned.
  5. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  6. Spoon a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
  7. Sprinkle one-third of the Parmesan over sauce.
  8. Scatter half cauliflower mixture over the Parmesan and top with half the mozzarella pieces.
  9. Top with half the remaining sauce, sprinkle with another third of the Parmesan and repeat layering, ending with a final layer of sauce and Parmesan.
  10. Transfer pan to oven and bake until cheese is golden and casserole is bubbling, about 30 to 40 minutes. While the dish is baking, prepare the pasta, if desired.
  11. Let cool a few minutes before serving. Serve over prepared pasta, as desired.

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