It was a quiet weekend over at the Middleton and Turner residence. Cameron spent time woodworking in the garage, and I caught up on some reading and writing while Waffles’s meowing interludes reminded me who really runs the house. Yesterday Charlotte and I endured slushy sidewalks for a long walk around our snow-socked neighborhood. Adulthood.
Below you’ll find another in my long string of recipes meant to dull the unrelenting Colorado cold. While the rest of ya’ll are relishing spring’s first buds, I’m bundling up for the worst month of the year in Colorado. More than any other place I’ve lived, the warning to beware the ides of March rings truest here.
Even if you manage to avoid snow drifts and icy waves of street slush knocked up by folks tucked warmly in their cars and trucks, manicotti is certainly no stranger to more pleasant climes. My mother allowed me to help her make manicotti when I was a kid in Alabama, and it reminds me of the filling meals she plied us with before she took her long hiatus from cooking. Stuffed with three cheeses and plenty of spinach, you won’t need more than two of these rascals before you’re sated. Cameron and I sidled up to a plate of manicotti and an ample balsamic vinaigrette-tossed salad, both of which helped blot out thoughts of slippery sidewalks and killer icicles dangling from our house gutters.
Spinach and Cheese Manicotti
(adapted from a Food Network recipe)
– 1 lb fresh spinach, stems trimmed and well washed or a 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed (I used frozen spinach since it was more cost-effective during the “dead” winter season that is Colorado.)
– Kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
– 12 manicotti shells
– 3 cups marinara sauce, (I used jarred organic sauce to save time, but if you’re hankering for a homemade sauce, click the link to the original recipe for an additional recipe for marinara sauce.)
– 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese (about 1 pound)
– 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces)
– 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese or a mixture of half Pecorino and Parmesan (Use Pecorino or Asiago if you want a comparable cheese that is more cost-effective.)
– 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
– Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
– Freshly ground pepper
– 2 tsp unsalted butter, diced
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat, and season generously with salt. Fill a medium bowl with ice water and season with salt, as well. Boil the spinach, uncovered, until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, (do not drain), and immediately plunge the spinach into the ice water. Drain and squeeze the excess water from the spinach, and finely chop. Alternatively, if using thawed spinach, simply squeeze, and finely chop. (My frozen spinach was already chopped, so that saves even more time.)
2. In the same large pot of boiling water (if you’re going the fresh spinach route), cook the pasta shells until al dente, tender but still slightly firm. Drain and pat dry.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
4. Cover the bottom of a 9- x 13-inch ovenproof baking dish with 1 cup 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 1/2 tsp salt, nutmeg, and pepper to taste.
5. Spoon the cheese mixture into each 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.