Spinach Manicotti with Lemon
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Recipe courtesy of Alex Guarnaschelli

Spinach Manicotti with Lemon

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 1 hr 40 min
  • Active: 50 min
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings



  1. Place the ricotta in a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl. Loosely cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the ricotta for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.
  3. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the lasagna sheets and stir with a large slotted spoon to ensure that the pasta does not stick as it cooks. Cook until still quite firm, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain the pasta and transfer to a large bowl (you'll use the empty pot later). Gently toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to coat. (This is more pasta than you will need, but the extra noodles are backups for any that might break.)
  4. In a large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. When the oil begins to smoke lightly, add the spinach, then sprinkle with salt and cook, stirring, just long enough to wilt, 30 to 45 seconds. Quickly remove the pan from the heat and transfer the spinach to a kitchen towel-lined plate to drain and cool.
  5. Return the medium pot to medium heat, then add the cream and garlic and bring to a gentle simmer, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the Worcestershire, hot sauce and 1/2 cup pecorino. Spoon enough of the sauce to lightly coat the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and set aside.
  6. In a large bowl, spread the ricotta out on the bottom and up the sides of the bowl (so the seasoning coats most of the cheese). Add the egg and sprinkle with salt. Mix to combine. Add pepper, the lemon zest, lemon juice, tarragon and the remaining 1/2 cup pecorino. Mix to combine. Add the sauteed spinach, reserving some for garnish. Add the allspice and combine thoroughly.
  7. Arrange the lasagna sheets on a clean, flat surface with the longer sides of the rectangles facing you. Place about 3 tablespoons ricotta on the edge of the sheet closest to you, leaving a little room on either end. Gently roll the pasta up into a tube away from you and place inside the prepared baking dish, seam-side down. Repeat with the remaining pasta and filling, taking care that the manicotti are snug in the baking dish.
  8. Cover the manicotti with about three-quarters of the sauce. (Keep the remaining sauce warm.) Place the baking dish on the center rack of the oven and bake until lightly browned and the filling is hot in the center when pierced with the tip of a knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Warm the remaining sauce and spoon it over the manicotti. Sprinkle the top with the reserved spinach and freshly grated Pecorino-Romano. Serve warm.

Cook’s Note

Why did manicotti go out of style? It seems so out of fashion and yet I love the baked tubes touched with fresh spinach and lots of lemon zest. I used to be obsessed with only grating the outer layer of lemon zest to get the floral notes and oils, leaving the bitter pith behind. Now I love the pith. Grate the zest, then grate even deeper. One large lemon could yield 3 to 4 tablespoons zest and pith, and we want those flavors in here.