This is a wonderful vegetarian pasta dish.
- 1 package Manicotti
- extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- Kosher salt
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
- 1 pound baby spinach, washed and cut into 1-inch lengths
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for serving
- 2 eggs
- For the Bechamel Sauce:
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 small white onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- Kosher salt
- 3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 quart milk
- Pinch grated nutmeg
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
For the Filling:
Coat a large saute pan with olive oil, add the onions and put the pan over medium heat. Season the onions with salt, to taste, and add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. Saute until the onions are translucent and very aromatic, about 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and saute for 3 to 4 more minutes. Stir in the spinach, season with salt, to taste, and saute until the spinach is wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. In a large bowl, add the ricotta, 1 cup of grated Parmigiano, the eggs and 1 cup of bechamel and stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.
To assemble the manicotti:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Prepare the baking dish by evenly schmearing 1 cup of bechamel sauce in the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.
Fill each cooked manicotti tube with filling. Arrange the manicotti in the baking dish, snuggling the tubes together until the dish is filled. Spoon the remaining bechamel on top. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmigiano and cover with foil. Bake in the preheated oven until heated through, about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the top starts to brown a little, about 5 to 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and serve topped with a little extra cheese.
Add the butter and onion to a large saucepan over medium heat. Season the onions with salt, to taste, and cook until they become translucent and very aromatic. Add the flour and cook until the flour and butter resemble wet sand, about 3 to 4 minutes. Gradually, whisk in the milk until incorporated. Add the bay leaf and nutmeg and season with salt, to taste. Slowly bring the milk/flour mixture to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent scorching on the bottom. Be sure that the milk comes to a boil or the flour will not cook out and you will be left with a very objectionable starchy feeling on your tongue.
Once the sauce has come to a boil and has thickened, remove it from the heat. Discard the bay leaf. Stir in the grated Parmigiano, taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.