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 juice
- 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.