Manicotti

Rick Cooks HomeManicotti

The other day, we went to a local Italian restaurant, and one of the specials was manicotti (misspelled "mannicotti"), and it had been a while since we had this dish, so Carol ordered it.

It was awful.

So I dug into my archives and pulled out one of our old favorites to undo the damage to our memories. In Italy, manicotti is an elegant dish: pasta tubes stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach and topped with a garlicky marinara sauce. In the U.S., it's lasagne ingredients remolded into stuffed pasta tubes, frequently confused with the smaller cannelloni which are from northern Italy and use a bechamel sauce.

You can't make manicotti noodles at home unless you have an extruder, but you roll the filling in lasagne noodles if you like.

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Manicotti

*Serves 6*
*Prep 15 minutes*
*Cook 1 hour*

1 lb fresh spinach, sautéed
Kosher salt, plus t
12 manicotti shells
3 c marinara sauce, recipe follows
1 c ricotta cheese (about 1 lb)
1 c shredded mozzarella cheese (about 4 oz)
1 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese or a mixture of half Pecorino and Parmesan
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper
2 t unsalted butter, diced

Sauté the spinach according to Rick's recipe. Drain and squeeze the excess water from the spinach, and finely chop.

Cook the pasta shells until al dente, tender but still slightly firm. Drain and pat dry.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cover the bottom of a 9x13-inch ovenproof baking dish with 1 c of the marinara sauce. In a medium mixing bowl, evenly combine the ricotta, mozzarella, and 1/3 cup of the Parmesan, the eggs, and the spinach. Season with the t salt, nutmeg, and pepper to taste. Spoon the cheese mixture into the manicotti shell and line them up in the baking dish. Cover with the remaining sauce. Scatter the remaining cheese on top and dot with the butter. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

MARINARA SAUCE

2 T extra-virgin olive oil
medium onion, diced (about 3 T)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 c whole, peeled, canned tomatoes in puree, (one 28-oz can), roughly chopped
Sprig of fresh thyme
Sprig of fresh basil
2 t kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and garlic, stirring, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the herb sprigs and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Remove and discard the herb sprigs. Stir in the salt and season with pepper to taste. Use now, or store covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.

Yield: 3 c

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