Today was a day of experimenting. I was having a hard time figuring out what I wanted for dinner so I started scanning through my recipes. I came across one for cheese manicotti. For any of you who have had cheese manicotti, it can be a somewhat “one-noted”. At least…for me it is. All that cheese can be a little overwhelming so I brainstormed what I wanted to add to the cheese in order to give it a deeper flavor profile and make it exactly what I wanted. Voila!!! Crab and kale manicotti.
I love Italian food and I love tomato-based sauces so this dish is right up my alley. Manicotti is just as versatile as stuffed shells. You can stuff them with anything that comes to your mind. Really! If you don’t like crab, try chicken or sausage. If you would rather not have kale – try spinach. The possibilities are endless. Use whatever is in your refrigerator and it will come out just right. This is a great dish to use for experimenting with different ingredients. Let me know what you try out…but first…
Crab and Kale Manicotti
8 large manicotti shells
2 ½ c shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1c ricotta cheese
1 ½ c blanched, chopped kale
1 ½ c shredded lump crab meat
¾ c grated parmesan cheese, divided
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp crushed red pepper
½ tsp Italian seasoning
1 jar prepared marinara sauce, divided
Techinque: Blanching is a process in which you immerse food (typically a green veggie) in boiling water for a very short period of time. Then, you remove it and submerge it in a bowl of ice water. I used this technique for the kale to tenderize it just a tad and give it a bright green color, while still allowing it to maintain a little crunch. Also, don't forget to remove the tough stems!
Preheat oven to 350. Spray a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain; rinse with cold water. Let pasta dry on paper towels.
For filling: In a medium bowl, stir together 2c mozzarella, ricotta, kale, crab, ½ c parmesan, and spices. Mix well using a spoon or your hands. Using a small teaspoon, carefully stuff pasta shells with crab mixture.
Tip: I recommend using your hands for this. If the ingredients are cold, they will not combine well with a spoon. Dig in!
Spoon 1c marinara sauce into prepared baking dish. The bottom of the pan should be covered but no more. You may need to add more or less depending on what size pan you use. Arrange stuffed pasta over sauce. Pour more marinara sauce over top of pasta until all pasta is just covered. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.
Favorite ingredient: My favorite marinara sauce is Trader Joe’s Tomato Basil Marinara. You don’t need to add anything and there are no preservatives. You will know what every ingredient on the list is and that’s pretty rare with packaged foods. I use it all the time when I need a little sauce on the side or I need a quick dinner option.
Bake manicotti for 15-20 mins. Sprinkle with remaining parmesan; bake for 5-10 mins longer. Serve immediately.
I served this with a side salad and multigrain bread (with butter of course). It made for a great Sunday family dinner and I took leftovers for lunch on Monday.