It’s time to talk about manicotti. Why? Because I made it this week and it wasn’t just for my own amusement (or consumption).
It’s the sort of dish you can make ahead and reheat before serving, which is essential if you’re busy and come home ravenous on a regular basis. (This is basically me, always.) Plus it’s the sort of thing I can freeze for my housesitter.
See, my whole family is flying back to Michigan for my Grandma’s birthday, and I’m going to have someone staying in my place for a few days to feed my fish and scratch the spoiled dogs behind their ears.
When I have houseguests or house sitters, it gets me thinking about all kinds of things. Like, scrubbing my shower with a pot scraper. And hiding my good knives. I’m kidding.
I mean, I have some knives that shouldn’t go in the dishwasher and instead of seeming like an ass for saying so, I just hide them in the linen closet. Or behind the Xbox.
Also, it’s common for me to take a pot scraper to the shower just to relieve stress, but I become more motivated to do this sort of thing when I know someone else will be standing in it.
See, my grandmother, whose birthday we’re celebrating, is Swiss. And she has made us all mental about matters of housekeeping. It has been said the Swiss make the Germans look like Italians… and if my family is any indication, this is not an understatement. I mean, my aunt vacuums every day. Just let that sink in for a moment….
So she’s nuts.
Anyway… on his deathbed, my grandpa told his wife, “Glady, you need to travel more and dust less.” I’m getting half of the equation right by going home, but I’m failing on the second part because I’m getting out the bleach at the thought of anyone staying at my place.
Oh, Lord, I just looked up and realized I need to dust my ceiling fan as well.
OK, so back to the manicotti because you don’t care about my crazy family and our obsession with filth.
Spinach Manicotti with Marinara Sauce
4 T olive oil
1 C finely chopped onion
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
2- 1 lb cans of diced tomatoes
4 T minced parsley
4 T tomato paste
½ C red wine
fresh basil, torn in small pieces
salt and pepper
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onion, celery, and garlic and cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in tomatoes with juice, parsley, tomato paste, wine, and half of the basil. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for about 45-50 minutes.
Add the remaining basil and simmer for 5 more minutes.
2 ½ C frozen spinach
2 C ricotta
2 eggs, beaten
3 T butter
3 T finely diced shallots
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 C fresh grated parmesan, divided
2 T chopped fresh basil
prosciutto, torn, optional
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper
8 oz package of manicotti shells
Carefully place the manicotti shells into a pot of boiling water, cooking until al dente. Do not overcook.
Drain the noodles and set aside.
Place the spinach in a colander and run hot water over it to thaw. Squeeze spinach to dry. Heat butter in heavy skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and spinach and cook for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Transfer spinach mixture to a medium bowl. Mix in ricotta, eggs, 1 C of parmesan, nutmeg, and basil. If you’re adding prosciutto, mix it in now.
Transfer mixture to a pastry bag (or a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off) and carefully pipe the ricotta mixture into the shells.
Place 2/3 C of marinara on the bottom of a 9×13” pan. Place the shells on top of the marinara and cover with remaining marinara and 1 C of parmesan. Place foil over the baking dish.
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for another 5-7 minutes.