Because I love lasagna but I hate portioning it out and I also hate making all those intricate layers, I often prefer to make stuffed manicotti instead. It’s got the same taste and texture as lasagna but it comes together in far less time and is already perfectly portioned. Manicotti is also a great way to pack a lot of good-for-you spinach into a meal without tasting like you’re eating the lawn. This filling could of course be used in a lasagna or also to make stuffed jumbo shells, another favorite of mine.
You can use any tomato sauce you want. I prefer to buy the canned 28 oz of plain tomato sauce and add my own herbs and spices; this is a lot cheaper than buying jarred pasta sauce but if you already have some of that in the house, this is a good use for it. I like to add a lot of red pepper flake to my sauce for some heat along with oregano and garlic powder. I served my manicotti alongside some homemade garlic bread for a completely carb filled meal; it was definitely a good decision.
Creamy Spinach & Beef Manicotti
- 1 package manicotti (about 14 pieces), cooked to package directions
- Olive oil
- 2 shallots, sliced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 scallions, sliced
- 8 oz spinach
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 ½ lbs lean ground beef
- 8 oz ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs
- 28 oz tomato sauce
- Fresh basil, for garnish
Bring a large pot of salty water to a boil for the pasta. When the water begins to boil, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Meanwhile, saute the shallots, garlic and scallions in a little bit of olive oil over medium heat, season well with salt and pepper. When the garlic becomes fragrant and the shallots start to brown, add in the spinach one handful at a time. Saute until the spinach is completely wilted down. Set the mixture aside in a large bowl.
Add a little more oil to the pan along with the ground beef and add more salt and pepper as needed. Cook until the beef is crumbly and no longer pink. Add the meat to the large bowl. Mix in the ricotta and eggs to form your manicotti filling.
Lightly grease a 13 x 9 baking dish. When the noodles are cooked and cool enough to handle, stuff them with the meat/veggie/cheese mixture and layer them in the dish. Be careful when stuffing the noodles so that they stay intact and do not split, make sure you don’t over stuff them. If there’s any filling left, you can fill in any gaps in the pan; do not save it for other uses later on as there are raw eggs in there!
Pour the tomato sauce evenly over the dish and pop it in the oven for 35 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle the top with fresh basil leaves.