Manicotti

With fresh spinach, tomatoes, basil, and ricotta available at the farmers market this was a no brainer! I hoped that fresh garlic would still be available however, I had purchased some a week or so before from DanLynn Organic farm, no worries!  So I made my way through the Collingswood Farmers Market. First, I purchased plum tomatoes from Viereck farms. Next, to Flaim farms for baby spinach and basil. My final stop was for the fresh ricotta from Hillacres Pride. This ricotta is superb for cooking, as it is dry which makes it perfect for ravioli and in this recipe manicotti. My mother-in-law would have loved this ricotta. I learned from her that to make a superior ravioli, manicotti and even cheese cake the ricotta should be on the drier side. I remember her draining the supermarket ricotta overnight in cheesecloth to remove the excess water before she would use it in a recipe.   Oh, let me not forget fresh eggs from Nature’s Own farm. Then on the way home a quick stop at  Severino’s on Haddon Avenue in Westmont for some fresh egg pasta sheets.  My heart was racing as I thought of this dish as it would come together and then fill my mouth with delight.

For the tomato sauce; 12  large plum tomatoes scalded and cooled slightly. Remove core, skin then  cut in half and remove seeds. Chop roughly and place in a bowl.

2 -3 cloves of garlic finely chopped

1/2 cup large basil leaves chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

a pinch of red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large space pan. Add garlic and sweat about 3 minutes, add pepper flakes, chopped tomatoes, basil, and a big pinch of salt. Bring to a soft boil then reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes.

Next wash the spinach and drain well. I used two bags of baby spinach. Finely chop another 2-3 cloves of garlic.

In a large saute pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sweat the garlic about 2 minutes and add the spinach, salt lightly and toss with tongs to mix the garlic and oil with the spinach. Reduce heat and cook for about 5 minutes max!  Cool

Beat two eggs in a large bowl, add 1 pound of ricotta, 1/2 cup of grated cheese (I use Pecorino Romano), and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. Mix well and then fold in the sautéed spinach.

I purchased 5 sheets of egg pasta. I cut each sheet into thirds Place about a 1/4 cup of filling  and mound along one edge, end to end. Roll until the end meets the sheet. Overlap the dough just a bit. Trim with a knife where the end meets the sheet; you will have a log. Place the manicotti in a large shallow baking sheet. Continue until you have used all the ricotta. I made about 15 manicotti. With the scraps of the pasta sheets you can cut them by hand into fettuccine.  They freeze quite nicely and you cook  them right from the freezer. A great quick meal with the remaining tomato sauce!

Finally cover the manicotti with your fresh made sauce. Sprinkle the top with some grated cheese and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until the sauce is slightly bubbly.  Remove from oven and cool slightly. Serve with a salad as well as a great Italian wine. Try “Unlitro” from Tuscany!  Buon Appetito

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