- 1 package (8 ounces) whole wheat manicotti or cannelloni
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely choppped
- 2 celery stalks , finely chopped
- 1 carrot finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 -28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup finely chopped shallots
- 5 ounces of spinach, stemmed and chopped
- 1 ½ pounds (about 24 ounces) lowfat ricotta cheese
- 1 cup finely grated Parmesan, divided
- 2 cups fresh mozzarella grated
- 1 egg
- 1/8 teaspoon lemon zest
- ¼ cup chopped fresh soft herbs of choice, such as tarragon, parsley, and basil
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and add pasta. Stir well to prevent them from sticking together and cook until just al dente, usually 6 to 8 minutes. Drain and transfer partially cooked pasta to a large bowl of ice water. Once cooled, transfer to damp kitchen towels and cover until ready to assemble the cannelloni.
In a 4 quart saucepan heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium high heat and saute onion until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and cook until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add 4 cloves of the minced garlic and cook for 20 seconds longer. Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil and then immediately turn down to a simmer and cook the sauce until the tomatoes break down and the sauce starts to thicken, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream and 1 teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. When the sauce is finished, remove from the heat and carefully blend with a hand held mixer.( Alternatively, sauce may be pureed in a blender, in batches, after it has cooled slightly. Take care in pureeing hot liquids; cover the blender tightly with a kitchen towel to prevent lid from coming up while pureeing.)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a medium nonstick pan heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and the remaining garlic and sauté for about 6 seconds before adding the spinach and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook the spinach, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Drain any excess liquid and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, egg, half of the parmesan cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Add the spinach mixture, the extra-virgin olive oil, remaining teaspoon of salt, the basil, oregano, and pepper, and stir to combine thoroughly. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the spinach-ricotta filling into each cooked pasta shell. Place the filled shells in the prepared dish.
Pour the tomato sauce over the filled shells and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of parmesan and1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Bake, uncovered, until bubbly, about 20 o 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.