Spinach Basil “Ricotta” Manicotti

Makes eight servings

Leila arrived last night from Cambridge with her five-month-old daughter and husband in tow. I knew they had risen at the ungodly hour of six in the morning to travel all the way to Illinois, and I wanted to have dinner in the oven by the time they got here to provide a dose of comfort after a long day of traveling with a baby.

I decided to take a stab at manicotti, which I have never eaten nor cooked, but I figure holidays are the perfect time to invent new recipes! The tofu ricotta is rich and creamy, and the spinach adds an extra nutritional punch. Let me know what you think.

Ingredients

  • 4.5 cups of marinara sauce
  • 30 manicotti
  • 1 (14oz) package extra-firm or firm tofu, pressed
  • 10 oz frozen spinach, mostly thawed
  • 1 small to medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1.5 cups loose fresh basil leaves
  • 5 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp lime or lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1-2 tsp of black pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tbsp of ground flax seed, optional

Directions
1. Bring an extra large pot of water to boil, cooking the manicotti as the box instructs, but keeping it on the al dente side so that the pasta is a bit chewy. Roll out a large sheet of aluminum foil. When done cooking, drain shells and transfer to the aluminum foil to prevent sticking. Leave them to cool.

2. Grease two large baking pans. Preheat oven to 400°F.

4. Chop the onion and garlic roughly and sauté them until they are golden.

5. While the onion and garlic are cooking, put the spinach, tofu, basil, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and flax seed in a food processor. Turn on and let it process until a creamy, dip-like texture is achieved.

6. When the onion and garlic are done, add them to the food processor and pulse until they are fully incorporated. Add salt and black pepper to taste, and try not to eat all the filling before it goes in the manicotti!

7. Stuff the manicotti with the filling from the food processor using a small spoon and your fingers, if needed. Use your fingers to separate the openings of the manicotti if they are stuck together. If you are having trouble pushing the filling through, just fill one end and then flip it over, filling the opposite end. Use your hands to squeeze the filling throughout the pasta.

8. Pour one cup of marinara sauce into each baking pan and spread it around. Place the manicotti snuggly side-by-side in the baking pans. Pour another 1 ¼ of marinara onto the manicotti.

9. Cover the baking pans with aluminum foil, poking a several holes in the foil. Bake for 25 minutes at 400°F. Serve immediately with extra tomato sauce and nutritional yeast on the side. Buon appetito!

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