Spinach and Sweet Pea Manicotti
We based this on a recipe for Swiss Chard and Sweet Pea Manicotti, by Giada de Laurentis… I thought that on the show she used something like spinach, but I couldn’t remember, so we went to the store and bought spinach before we actually looked up the recipe, whoops! But this version tastes very similar, I would assume, and the recipe itself is really really yummy, so it is worth a try, whether you want to follow her version or ours.
Butter or cooking spray to grease the pan
12 manicotti shells (or some sort of large tubular shell pasta that you can fill with stuff)
For the filling:
12 ounces spinach (frozen or fresh, it really doesn’t matter)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
~3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed (or more if you want!)
1 cup shredded mozzarella
3/4 cup grated Parm
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
“Fontina Fonduta” sauce
3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup heav cream
3 cups fontina cheese, grated
2 tbsp grated Parm
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
It is also helpful if you have a large pastry bag around with a big-opening-tip, to fill the pastas with the filling. If not, do what we did and cut a hole in a ziploc bag in the corner and just use that. It might get a little messy, but deliciously messy, so it’s okay.
Preheat your oven to 400, and grease a 9×13” glass baking dish.
Salt some water in a large pot and bring to a boil, adding pasta once it gets there. Cook al dente, as this will finish cooking in the oven (al dente is Italian for ‘to the tooth,’ which means it will be kind of soft on the outside but if you bite into the pasta, there is still a thin layer of crunch to it). This can take up to 6 or 7 minutes.
To make your filling, heat up a little oil in a pan over med-high heat. Add your onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until everything is pretty soft. Add the garlic and cook another minute or so. Then you can add the spinach, yum! Cook it until it wilts (or thaws out, if you opt for frozen)… if it is fresh, this will be about 2 minutes or so. Cool this mixture down and then add the ricotta, peas, mozzarella, parm, basil, salt, and pepper and put it ALL together in a blender or food processor if you have a nice big one that can hold it all without leaking over the side and causing you to think you will get the motor wet, thus forcing you to buy a new food processor (Yes, I am bitter about our food thing… I think technically it is just for chopping things, but unless it’s super full, it just throws things to the side, and if it contains any liquid, everything spills out over the side. It is pretty dumb. Free birthday present idea, anyone who cares!)
Anyway, pulse it until it gets nice and smooth, and then you want to fill your ziploc and/or pastry bag with the mixture to squish into the pastas.
Place the stuffed shells into your baking dish and then cover it with the special cheese sauce (recipe follows).
Bring milk and cream to a simmer (probably on medium heat or lower), and then reduce the heat if it’s not on low already. Add the cheese to cook, continually stirring, until everything is melty and smooth. Stir in your basil and pour everything over the stuffed shells. Sprinkle with a little bit more mozzarella cheese, because it makes a nice crusty brown topping on everything, and it is delicious!
Bake 30-35 minutes, and let stand for five or so before eating, so that everything can set up nicely. The top should be a pretty, cheesy, golden brown color where your mozzarella was.
It is especially delicious during the winter months, as it is filling and warm, and has some healthy aspects to it (about one – the spinach and peas, but hey it’s something when you are sitting on the couch wishing you could hibernate like a bear!)
Tell us what you think!
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