Bacon, Onion, Spinach and Ricotta Manicotti

manicotti 5

There are nights that call for big pans of cheesy baked pasta, plunked on the table with a stack of plates and a big salad for everyone to dig into. Pasta is classic Sunday supper fare, but also works on rainy Wednesdays, when the week is dragging on and you need a meal that will wrap you up like a warm blanket. This Wednesday I knew pasta was in order, and so rummaged through my various drawers and cupboards of boxes and bags in order to use up some of the shapes that have been lying in wait for far too long. I came up with a box of manicotti – something I’m quite sure I haven’t made in a decade. There was ricotta in the fridge, and bacon, and that decided it.

manicotti filling 1

Bacon + onions + kale (just a bit) + ricotta. And good tomatoes. When you’re stuffing things, anything goes.

manicotti filling 2

When time spent in the kitchen is therapeutic, and the weekend offers up more of it, it’s nice to boil a pot of enormous pasta tubes and stand at the counter and stuff them, then lay them out in a row on a bed of roughly crushed tomatoes. Good canned tomatoes are essential, I think – a staple I always have in the pantry, more reliable than the seasons (and my often hailed-on garden), and when I find a good brand, my loyalty knows no bounds. Good canned tomatoes are most often the basis for homemade pasta sauces, too – they’re more consistent and condensed compared to fresh tomatoes.

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I have a few favourites at the Italian markets, but recently I was on the receiving end of a can of Muir Glen fire-roasted crushed tomatoes, which are new to Canada, and yes – they were chunky and intense, not overly acidic, with great flavour – no filter required. I look for the kind of tomatoes I can upend onto pasta, or into a pan with a glug of olive oil and a few cloves of garlic, that don’t need much help because the already taste like tomatoes – not jarred tomato sauce.

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My sister came in after a 12 hour workday and got herself a plate, then sat down and took a few bites. She looked up at the cans on the counter and – for real – said wow, it really makes a difference when you use good tomatoes, doesn’t it? And that was that.

manicotti 2

manicotti 2
manicotti 2

Bacon, Onion, Spinach and Ricotta Manicotti

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May 31, 2016

Ingredients

8-10 dry manicotti shells

8 slices bacon, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

a handful of spinach or 1-2 large kale or chard leaves, finely chopped

1 lb ricotta

salt and pepper

1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

olive oil, for cooking

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 28 oz (796 mL) can Muir Glen fire-roasted crushed tomatoes

Directions

1Preheat the oven to 350F.

2In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the manicotti noodles according to package directions. Set aside on a baking sheet until they're cool enough to handle.

3In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisp; transfer to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon. Add the onion to the drippings in the skillet (remove some with a spoon if there's a lot) and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until soft and turning golden. Add the spinach, chard or kale to the pan and cook for a minute or two, until it wilts. (If you're using kale, add a splash of the pasta cooking water to help it along, and loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.) Transfer to the bowl with the bacon. Once it cools down, add the ricotta, half a cup of mozzarella and half the Parmesan, and some salt and pepper, and stir to combine.

4Add a glug of olive oil to the skillet (don't bother washing it out), warm it over medium-high heat and cook the garlic for a minute, just until fragrant. Add the crushed tomatoes to the pan and stir to heat through.

5Spread a large spoonful of the tomatoes over the bottom of a 9x13-inch (or similarly-sized) baking dish. Stuff the manicotti with the ricotta mixture using a small spoon and your fingers, laying them in the pan as you go. Spread the remaining tomatoes overtop and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake for 45 minutes, or until bubbly and golden.

6Serves 6.

00:00


*Muir Glen sent me a couple cans of their tomatoes to try, and compensated me for including them in a recipe. They really are that good.

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5 comments on “Bacon, Onion, Spinach and Ricotta Manicotti

  1. Jacqueline
    June 1, 2016 at 9:11 am

    I had no idea what I was going to make for dinner last night until your post appeared on my screen!

    Delicious! Only change was I used the big shells instead as they are far easier to stuff and I accidentally opened a can of diced tomatoes and not crushed; this was not an issue though since I like chunks of tomatoes and it tasted just fine. I think next time I will combine the crushed tomatoes and the diced for more tomato-y goodness.

    Thanks for the inspiration, Julie, it was a great way to use up the bacon, kale and mozzarella lurking in my fridge!

  2. Sue D
    June 1, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    Hilarious – Muir Glen is my favourite brand of tomatoes too! They were in Canada years ago, and then disappeared for awhile. I was ecstatic to see them on the shelf a few weeks ago.

    And yum – bacon and a little kale sounds great in that cheesy pasta bake.

  3. patt
    June 2, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    Julie: do you know where one can buy Muir Glen tomatoes (I am near Edmonton). If not able to find this brand, what other brands do you recommend? Thank you so much!

  4. Melanie Chambers
    June 14, 2016 at 9:06 am

    Julie– I write about food as a travel writer, but I actually rarely cook. Your site makes me want to cook so I made this manicotti for a dinner party last night. Wow, not s single piece was left in the pan. Everyone actually thought I knew what I was doing.
    I appreciate your easy-breasy style and helpful tips. Thank you so much. Waiting to see what’s new on your site is always a treat! Keep it up.
    Melanie Chambers

    • Julie
      June 19, 2016 at 9:18 pm

      I’m so glad! Thanks for letting me know – you made my day!!

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