My wife makes the best veggie manicotti. And whenever I want manicotti, I usually have her make it. But last week, I was watching an episode of America’s Test Kitchen, and they pointed out how annoying it is to try and fill those manicotti shells. Instead, they used no-boil lasagne noodles. It was ingenious. Plus, the way they did it fit perfectly in a 9×13 dish. The OCD in me just had to try it.
1. Prep the no-boil noodes: put on a kettle of water. Pour the boiling water into a 9×13. Drop in the no-boil noodles, one at a time. Let them sit in the water for about 5 minutes. Then, carefully remove them to a sheet tray lined with a tea towel. Don’t overlap the noodles. When one layer is full, place a towel on top and repeat. You should get three layers.
2. Prep the frozen veggies: I thawed out about 10 oz of frozen spinach in the microwave. I then squeezed out the liquid. Prep the noodes: boil a kettle full of water and pour it into a 9×13 dish. Then, drop the no-boil noodles in, one at a time. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Then, remove them to a sheet tray lined with tea towels. Don’t overlap them. When one layer is laid out, put a tea towel on top and repeat.
3. Prep the non-frozen veggies: I diced one portabella mushroom cap and minced one onion. I sauted these up slightly in some rendered duck fat. I happened to have some of this around. After about a couple of minutes, I then added this to the spinach.
4. Add the proteins: I then added a small tube of ricotta, most of a package of shredded mozarella, and a handful of grated parmesan to the veggies.
Prep the casserole: I poured in a layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of te pan.
5. Start rolling: take a noodle, put about a quarter cup (maybe?) of the manicotti filling. Then roll it up like big ol cheesy cigar.
6. Enjoy the OCD perfection of this recipe: the rolled up manicotti using this method fits two rolls across. And then you can fit them, roll by roll, to the end of the dish. When it’s all said and done, everything fits perfectly flush. My food-related OCD tendencies love this. When I make french fries, I line them up in two equal rows where all the fries are aligned in the same direction. When I eat skittles, I pour them out onto my desk and then line them up by color. Looking at a 9×13 filled with manicotti that fits so perfectly is one of the most appetizing things I can think of.
7. Preheat and top: preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Top the manicotti with a ton of spaghetti sauce, some more shredded cheese, and some more parmesan.
Bake: for about 45 minutes.
Sarah’s maniccoti is better than mine. But I think it’s because the manicotti noodles she uses have ridges, whereas the no-boil lasagne noodles are smooth. For some reason, the ridges in the traditional manicotti noodles carry the sauce flavors better. Or maybe I needed to add more sauce the bottom of the dish before baking.
On the other hand, because the roll-method results in a slightly thicker noodle. And for the first time, the adjective, “toothsome,” when used to describe food, actually made sense. Whenever I make manicotti, this will be the way that I do it.