Spinach and Cheese Manicotti

Have you guys figured out that I really, really like meals I can make in advance? One of my favorite ways to spend a day, usually Sunday, is in the kitchen preparing a meal or two for the week ahead. With the weather getting cooler, of course we tend to gravitate to comfort foods… You know, the hearty, stick-your-ribs, not necessarily good for you stuff. This meal, while full of cheese, also packs a nice veggie punch with spinach and tomato sauce. You could easily add extra veggies or whatever you want. Another theme of mine- customizable meals. Another one of those meals that would be great to bring to a sick friend, a friend who’s just had a baby, etc.
Ingredients:
Makes 2 casseroles
For the pasta and filling:
3 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 oz (~1 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
To finish (per casserole):
3 cups marinara sauce, divided
1 oz (~ 1/2 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:
Pour 1 inch of boiling water into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and slip the lasagna noodles into the water, spreading them out into as even a layer as possible. Obviously mine overlapped a bit! Let the noodles soak until pliable, about 5 minutes, separating with the tip of a knife to prevent sticking.
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Remove the noodles from the water and place in a single layer on clean dish towels or a baking rack.
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In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, grated/shredded cheeses, spinach, eggs, parsley, salt and pepper.
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Spread about ¼ cup of the mixture over the bottom three-quarters of each noodle. Roll the noodles up around the filling.
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At this point the filled noodles can be frozen for later use by placing seam-side down on a baking sheet and putting in the freezer until firm, about 1 hour. Transfer to Tupperware or ziplock bag until ready to use.
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To finish and serve, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Spread 1 cup of sauce over the bottom of an 8X8 inch baking dish. It might be a tight squeeze but it’ll work! Arrange 6 of the filled manicotti over the sauce. Pour 1 cup of sauce over the top, cover with foil, and bake about 30-35 minutes. Remove the foil, top with the remaining sauce, and sprinkle with the cheese.

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Continue to bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 10 minutes more. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve! If baking from frozen, simply add a few extra minutes to the initial baking time.
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Recipe from Annie’s Eats.

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