If you’ve never been to Jimmy’s in Dallas, plan to make a trip soon. It’s an Italian food store and deli/sandwich shop a few miles North East of downtown and they have an amazing array of Italian goods – from house-made pizza dough to olive oils and Italian canned tomatoes. There are Italian cookies, olive oils, cheeses…you name it, they’ve got it.
We love to go there and browse the narrow aisles and see what new fun stuff we can find. Usually we come home with pizza dough, pepperoni, sopressata (thinly sliced Italian-style salami), and a big wedge of Parmesan. Bret loves their cannoli, both original and their chocolate version. He came home last time with Parmesan and a box of manicotti, so I was all set to make this wonderful new recipe using good stuff from Jimmy’s!
It was fairly easy to throw together, but if you’ve ever made manicotti you know that stuffing the shells is a little time consuming and messy. If you fill one end of the cooked shell, turn it around and fill the other end, it makes it a little easier and the shell doesn’t tear. I found that the filling needed a little more salt, but taste it before adding the eggs and make your own determination. I tend to like things salty.
The filling was creamy and the addition of spinach made me feel that, besides all the cheese, at least I was eating a green vegetable. Next time I’ll use lightly sauteed fresh spinach instead of the frozen because the frozen seemed a little stringy to me. If you use frozen, be sure and squeeze the liquid out of it (wring it in a paper towel) two or three times.
The original recipe for this came from Rachael Ray, but I took great liberties with it and adapted it to my own tastes. If you want to make fresh marinara, the link will take you to her recipe in which she has instructions for that. I prefer to use my favorite bottled marinara.
We enjoyed this manicotti and I would probably make it again. It could easily be cut in half, but if you have a lot left over it can be frozen successfully.
- 12 manicotti shells
- 4 C marinara sauce (your favorite)
- The Filling:
- One 10-ounce package chopped frozen spinach , wrung dry
- 4 cups ricotta
- 1 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 eggs , lightly beaten
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and cook the manicotti until shy of al dente, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain and cool to handle.
Pour 2 cups of the sauce into a very large baking dish. Preheat the oven to 425°.
For the filling: Mix together in a large bowl the spinach, ricotta, 1 cup of the Parmesan, salt and pepper to taste and a little nutmeg. Taste to adjust seasonings before adding the eggs. Once the eggs are mixed in, spoon the filling into a large zip-lock bag and trim one corner. Pipe the filling into the manicotti and place in the baking dish. Cover the casserole with the remaining 2 cups of sauce, rest of the Parmesan and all of the mozzarella.
Bake until brown and bubbly, 30 to 35 minutes. If it starts browning too much, lay a piece of aluminum foil on top.
Tips and Stuff: To make stuffing the manicotti easier, fill one end of shell, then turned it around and fill the other end of the shell. To decide what size of baking dish to use, before starting the recipe arrange the uncooked shells into the empty dish and make sure they will all fit (remembering you'll also have sauce in there). Put a cookie sheet on the rack below the manicotti while baking in case some of the sauce spills over.