I remember how excited I was to move in with Lu back in January 2013. I was obviously excited because I was getting to move in with my best friend, but I was more excited to be able to cook for two, not one.
Everyone knows that cooking for one is pretty anticlimactic. You don’t get to share your opinions on what you just ate or sit and really have a proper meal. Whenever I cook for only myself, I rarely sit down at a table and enjoy my meal – I’m usually working on something, watching TV, or multitasking, taking bites as I pass by.
Today’s dish is the ultimate party for two – a healthier, deconstructed manicotti (using zucchini noodles!)
When Lu and I got back from spending Mother’s Day with my family, we were exhausted and couldn’t be bothered with making dinner. Luckily, I still had leftovers in the fridge from this manicotti.
We heated it up for a few minutes and dug in. Lu’s words? “This is your best meal yet!” You should have seen us – standing over a bowl of this zucchini noodle manicotti, practically yanking the bowl out of each other’s hands each time one of us took a bite.
Traditionally, manicotti is a type of noodle that’s made hollow so that you can fill it with something delicious. In this case, the stuffing is spinach, mozzarella, parmesan cheese, ricotta and an egg. The egg helps fluff up the mixture, but you can leave it out.
By replacing the manicotti with zucchini noodles, you’re saving yourself hundreds of calories, dozens of carbs and eliminating processed wheat. Therefore, this manicotti is completely gluten-free.
You’d think that the zucchini noodles would become too watery here, but that doesn’t happen at all – they soften to the perfect al dente consistency without any excess moisture.
The tomato sauce here is made with basil, which gives the manicotti an extra freshness that plays well with the summer zucchini. After you’ve laid down your layers of zucchini and tomato sauce, you’re ready for the best part: two large dollops of the “stuffing”! If you’d like to give the dish a bit more heartiness, you can add meat to the tomato sauce for a beef manicotti.
Since we’ve “deconstructed” the manicotti, make sure you place a dollop to the right and to the left, so that serving is easier. A nice cast-iron skillet is great for presentation but also great for transferring from the stovetop to the oven.
Treat a friend or your boyfriend/girlfriend/fiancee/husband/wife to this skillet this week – crack open a bottle of wine and cheers to eating a healthier version of a classic Italian comfort dish.
How often do you have sit down dinners with your family or friends?
NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION & RECIPE
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup diced red onion
- 1 14oz can diced tomatoes, no salt added
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 5 basil leaves, chopped
- 3 cups baby spinach
- 2 zucchinis, Blade A
- 2 tbsp shredded mozzarella cheese
- For the filling:
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- 7.5oz of ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 small egg
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Place a large castiron or nonstick skillet over medium heat and add in the olive oil. Add in the garlic, red pepper flakes and onions and cook for 2-3 minutes or until onions are translucent.
- Add in the canned tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Stir and let cook for 10 minutes or until your sauce is reduced fully. Five minutes in, add the basil.
- While the sauce is cooking, mix together all of the ingredients for the "filling." Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Then, place a large skillet over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Once the skillet heats, add in your baby spinach and toss until wilted. Fold the spinach into the cheese mixture and set aside.
- When the sauce is done cooking, remove half of the sauce and set aside. Make sure that the sauce is spread evenly on the bottom of the skillet and then top with the zucchini noodles. Top with the remaining sauce.
- Next, make two pockets in the zucchini noodles on either side of the skillet and fill each with a dollop of the cheese "filling." Sprinkle over the skillet with the 2 tbsp of mozzarella. Season the top of the skillet with pepper.
- Cover the skillet with tin foil and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the noodles soften and the cheese is completely melted.
- Serve for two!