Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Manicotti
Manicotti is the Italian word for “sleeves,” and this delicious recipe uses fresh, homemade crêpes in place of pasta tubes to create a light, delicate dish that is sure to become a family favorite.
The filling is made with ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan and chopped spinach and the sauce is a homemade marinara that complements the manicotti without overpowering their flavor.
This is a company-worthy main dish, so if you're looking for an impressive Italian dish to serve friends and family, you've found it.
Both the crêpes and the marinara sauce can easily be made a day ahead, then you can just assemble and bake the manicotti just before serving leaving you plenty of time to spend with your guests.
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (plus more if needed)
- 1-1/4 cups whole milk
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
- 1 package (10-ounce) frozen spinach, defrosted and well drained
- 1 pound ricotta cheese
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 cup finely shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
For the sauce:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 4 cups diced Italian plum tomatoes, undrained
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chiffonade of fresh basil
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, flour, milk, melted butter and salt until smooth and well combined.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour to allow the mixture to thicken. While the crêpe batter chills, make the sauce and the filling.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking until fragrant, about 1-1/2 minutes longer.
- Add the tomatoes, oregano and optional crushed red pepper. Stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste and allow to simmer, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Stir in the fresh parsley and basil, remove from the heat and set aside.
- Mix the well-drained spinach (see notes) and ricotta cheese in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then add the nutmeg and beaten egg. Stir in 1/2 cup of the shredded mozzarella and all of the parmesan. Set aside while you make the crêpes.
- Place 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil in an 8-inch nonstick pan and rub it over the bottom and sides with a paper towel. Heat the pan over medium heat and add about 3 tablespoons of the batter to the center of the pan.
- Quickly lift the pan from the heat, tilting and rotating until the batter coats it completely in a thin circle. As soon as the crêpe appears set and "dry" (about 30 seconds), flip it over and cook until barely browned, 20 to 30 seconds more.
- Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining batter. Stack the cooked crêpes on a plate. You should end up with between 14 and 18 total.
Note: If, after making the first crêpe, you feel the batter is a little too thin, whisk in a some more flour - 2 or 3 tablespoons should be plenty.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- To assemble the dish, spray a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Spoon about 1 cup of the marinara in the bottom of the dish and spread around with a spatula.
- Place one crêpe on a flat surface and spread a scant 1/4 cup of the filling on one side, about 1 inch in from the edges.
- Gently roll the crepe to form a tube, making sure the filling is evenly distributed. Place seam side down in the prepared baking dish. Repeat with the remaining crêpes. Spoon marinara sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella.
- Cover the dish with aluminum foil that has been sprayed with nonstick spray and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 5 to 7 minutes longer, or until the cheese on top turns a light golden brown.
- Allow the dish to stand for about 10 minutes before serving.
It is important to drain the spinach very thoroughly. We recommend placing it in cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel and wringing out all the excess moisture prior to mixing it with the cheese.