Manicotti are much larger than cannelloni and therefore much, much easier to stuff. Personally, I approach the whole stuffing process with joyless abandon. Not for me the delicate process of cake forks and backs of teaspoons to get the stuffing in the tubes; it’s a roll up the sleeves, hands in the bowl affair in my kitchen. Although, I must confess, it was the ever resourceful Mr P who beat the prissy out of me one afternoon and a cannelloni stuffing competition, which he won hands down, if you’ll forgive the pun and since then I’ve followed his example.
This is a lighter version of the usual pasta al fourno, foregoing the buttery bechemel in favour of an extra wop of tomato sauce. And that tomato sauce comes out of a jar, mind you. I don’t think I’ll be the type to be making bathtubs of my own tomato sauce any day soon and a good quality jar of ye olde tomato sauce does the trick perfectly.
*I used provolone on the top because it’s what I had on hand, but a good mozzarella would be wonderful as well.
** This recipe makes a full lasagna dish worth, enough for 4 – 6 people, so divide proportionately if you want, although it makes great left overs and freezes well too.
Spinach and Ricotta Manicotti with Sundried Tomatoes and Olives
1 Onion (I used spanish red) finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch spinach (about 250g), washed and chopped
¼ tsp Garam Masala
½ tsp Nutmeg
10 sundried tomatoes (in oil), drained and chopped
2 Tbsp ground flax
⅓ cup black olives, chopped (I used little nicoise)
½ cup pine nuts
500g ricotta, drained
salt and white pepper to taste
1 jar tomato pasta sauce (I used tomato and basil)
provolone and parmesan, grated – enough to cover dish
– heat olive oil in a large skillet and saute onions and garlic until tender. Add spices and cook until fragrant.
– add spinach in batches, to reduce size, and saute until wilted. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
– transfer spinach mix to a large mixing bowl, add tomatoes, flax, olives, pine nuts and mix well.
– mix in ricotta with a wooden spoon, breaking it up as you go to form a creamy mess. Season to taste.
– butter a large casserole or lasagna dish and pre-heat the oven to 350˚F
– spread about ⅓ tomato sauce on bottom of dish.
– stuff each manocotti with spinach filling and place on tomato sauce base. Continue until dish is full.
– top dish with the rest of the tomato sauce and top with the two cheeses.
– bake in the oven for 45 mins, until pasta is tender.