Friday, July 20, 2012

Bella Cooks: Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Manicotti

Time for another round of Bella Cooks! This is also a first for me. Tonight I made Spinach and Ricotta stuffed Manicotti.

I must have watched 30 videos on Youtube last night, trying to find the recipe I was looking for. I learned a lot. For one, there are as many different ways to make this dish as there are cooks to make it! Finding a "simple" recipe was hard, as there are so many different additions to the filling you can add. So I basically took everyone's basic filling, before the add ins, and used that, as I was not wanting to add meat or anything like that.

I also learned the "real" Italian or Sicilian way to make the dish is not with pasta, but with crepes. Next time I think I will try it that way. After I practice making crepes a time or two first, of course lol.

I did take pics, although it was not until after I mixed the filling before I remembered to grab the camera. I swear, I need to tattoo " Get the camera!" on my arm or something.

Alex, my seven year old, helped me out with some of the shots, which will be obvious since you will see both of my hands in the picture lol.

Here we go!

*Note: For a vegan version of this dish, use two boxes of firm silken tofu with half a cup of soy milk, mixed until it resembles the texture of the Ricotta, and use whatever the fakey vegetarian cheese equivalent of the Parmesan and the Mozzarella cheese is and leave out the egg. I am not a vegetarian, but I learned this last night!

Ingredients: (Makes 16 Manicotti )

1 package of Manicotti noodles ( Or large shells )
1 and 1/2 cups grated Mozzarella cheese
15 oz Ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
12 oz of frozen spinach, thawed, with water squeezed out
Spices to taste ( I used Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper, and I would say about half a tablespoon of each. I am an eyeball cook, sorry lol )
At least 40 oz of tomato sauce, canned or homemade. ( I had a 29 oz can and I really needed more sauce, but it is what I had on hand. )

First, I got a large pot and filled it with water and a dash of salt and set it to boil on the stove. Once the water reached a roiling boil, I added the noodles. Only cook the noodles for about 5 minutes. You do not want the pasta to be limp, it needs to be underdone so it will hold its shape. It will finish cooking in the oven.

Once the noodles have boiled for 5 minutes, drain them into a colander and rinse them under cold water so they will stop cooking.

Now it is time to make the filling.

Mix drained spinach, 3/4 cup of the Parmesan, 1 cup of the Mozzarella, Ricotta, egg, and spices in a large bowl.

Get a large baking dish, big and deep enough to hold the shells and sauce. Pour a couple of ladles of sauce in the bottom of the pan and coat the bottom, to prevent sticking.

Now it is time to stuff the shells. There are a couple of ways you can do this. One is to take a small spoon and stuff the mix into the shells. The other way is to fill a zipper style bag with the filling and snip off the corner, making a piping bag. I chose this method. Much less mess.

Yes, I almost always use gloves when I cook. Keeps my hands and food clean!

Cutting the tip off...

Now we are ready to fill the shells. I recommend doing this either over the bowl of filling to catch drips, or over the baking pan, since the filling is the best part! Simply insert the corner of the piping bag into one side of the shell, and squeeze. Be careful not to press to hard into the shell, as it can split. Fill it halfway, and then turn it around and fill the other end.

Keep going until you get all the shells filled, placing them one by one into the baking pan as you finish them. Once they are done it will look something like this: (Yes my favorite baking pan is round, so they fit unsymmetrical lol. )

Now we add the sauce, little bit at a time, until all the shells are covered.

Once the shells are covered, sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese on top, followed by the remaining Mozzarella cheese, until the top is covered. You can use more or less cheese here, according to your preferences.

Now cover it with foil and stick it in a 350 degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on how your oven cooks.

After baking, remove the foil and stick it back in the oven until the cheese is as melted and bubbly as you like it. My family likes cheese to be really brown, we like the more intense flavor of the cheese when it is close to turning black, so that is why the top cheese is very dark. We like it that way!

Above pics were right after the foil was removed. 

Pics below are after cheese has browned.

I had no bread *sad face* so I paired this with a simple salad of lettuce, peeled cucumbers, shredded cheddar cheese and Blue Cheese and Gorgonzola  dressing. It was a very yummy meal, We all loved it, so I am very proud of myself and will be making this again for sure. As I said before, next time I am going to tackle making the crepe version!

So that's it! It was very easy to make, the whole process took maybe 30 minutes. Hope you enjoyed the post and if you make it, let me know. If you have any questions just drop me a comment and I will be happy to answer them. Until next time folks!


Nadine said...

Gosh this looks so good. Will have to convince the family we should have it for dinner this weekend.

Kleaf19 said...

I love just about anything with spinach and/or pasta! Will definitely be adding this to the to-try list!

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