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.

Salmon with Salsa Fresca

Similar to my summer vegetable gratin post, this dish also incorporates a¬†complete “CSA box” – plus salmon. It was a light and fresh meal. The salsa was absolutely delicious. I was inspired to make it when I received all of these beautiful tomatoes in my box.

We ate it with roasted beets and red potatoes, also from my CSA box, of course. ūüôā

This dish was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by Mark Bittman. I used on half of a small red onion instead of a white onion, my mixed tomatoes from my CSA share, a home-grown jalape√Īo, and the juice of 1 lime in the salsa. Bittman notes that grilled, broiled, roasted, or even steamed salmon (or other types of fish such as halibut or swordfish) would work equally well.

This dish is so colorful it might just be dinner party worthy too. Ready in 30 minutes makes it extra-fabulous.

Yield: 3-4 servings

  • 2 large fresh ripe tomatoes, or 3 or 4 ripe plum tomatoes, or a pint of mixed cherry tomatoes, diced (and cored if large)
  • ¬Ĺ large white or red onion, peeled and minced
  • ¬ľ habanero or 1/2 jalape√Īo chili, stemmed, seeded and minced, or to taste
  • ¬Ĺ cup roughly chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • juice of 1 or 2 limes, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper and coarse salt to taste
  • 1 salmon fillet, about 1 1/2 pounds, preferably with skin on (can substitute¬†halibut or swordfish)
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, like corn or canola
  1. Start a charcoal or gas grill; fire should be moderately hot and grill rack about 4 inches from heat source. Or, heat oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Chop tomatoes and combine them in a bowl with onion, chili, cilantro, lime juice and some salt. Set aside. (Salsa can be made up to one hour ahead of time.)
  3. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. If grilling, rub fish with a little oil as well; put it on grill, skin side down, and let it sit for 4 to 5 minutes, then turn once (don’t worry if part of skin sticks to grill). Cook for about 3 minutes more, until medium-rare.
    If roasting, heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat for a minute. Add oil and, a few seconds later, salmon, skin side up. Sear for a minute, then transfer to oven and roast until medium-rare, about 10 minutes.
  4. Allow to rest for a minute or so, then remove skin, if desired. Turn over and serve, topped with salsa or passing salsa at the table.

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