For those of you here in the States, I hope you are enjoying your long holiday weekend with lots of family gatherings and fireworks displays. I’m visiting my small hometown, where there’s an annual festival with one of those Norman Rockwell-esque Main Street parades, including the local high school’s marching band and dozens of homemade floats. There’s also plenty of chicken barbeque and homemade ice cream flowing.
I’ve also been picking some homegrown blueberries here on my parents’ farm. I can’t wait to get a recipe together with them to share with you. Right now though, it’s time I pass along this manicotti recipe I’ve been hoarding for a week. This dish is a great way to sneak healthy vegetables past picky eaters at the dinner or picnic table. It tastes like a traditional cheesy Italian indulgence, but instead this manicotti is hiding the vitamin and mineral one-two punch of Swiss chard and broccoli.
If you’re a fan of only one of these vegetables, the recipe can easily be adapted to just using four cups of one or the other. The original recipe didn’t call for it, but next time I think I’ll add a little mozzarella on top too to help keep the manicotti more moist.
I’ve been growing Swiss chard in both my garden and in pots on my deck. Container vegetables are a new experiment for me now that we have a huge deck right off the kitchen. I’ve really been impressed by not only how well my plants are growing and producing, but also by how ornamental they are. Don’t hesitate to tuck in some Swiss chard with your flowering annuals, either in containers or beds. The foliage is really quite lovely, especially on the multicolored varieties. I can’t wait to see the yellow stems of my Swiss chard accentuated by the yellow pear tomatoes growing in the same container; delicious AND pretty!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a dish of homemade chocolate ice cream callin’ my name. So tell me, what are you doing to celebrate Independence Day?
Swiss Chard & Broccoli Baked Manicotti
Adapted from Vegetarian: the best ever recipe collection
For the filling:
12 manicotti tubes, cooked according to package directions
3 C. broccoli florets, steamed or boiled until tender
1 C. chopped swiss chard, blanched and drained
1 ½ C. fresh breadcrumbs
2/3 C. heavy cream or milk
4 T. olive oil
1 C. low fat ricotta cheese
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
½ C. grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the sauce:
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1 large (29 oz) can of diced tomatoes
2 T. tomato paste
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. dried marjoram or thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pine nuts (optional)
In a blender, process the broccoli and swiss chard until smooth. Set aside. In a medium bowl, combine breadcrumbs with the cream/milk and olive oil. Stir until well combined. Add the ricotta, broccoli/chard puree, nutmeg and half of the grated cheese. Mix, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
To make the sauce, heat the remaining olive oil in a frying pan and add the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until softened. Stir in the tomato paste until onions are coated. Add the diced tomatoes (juice too) and seasonings. Stir and bring to a boil for 2 or 3 minutes. Pour half of the sauce in a large greased baking dish.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Using a piping bag or a ziplock bag with a small hole cut in one corner, carefully fill the cooked manicotti tubes with the filling. It might help to stand the tubes up on a cutting board, or just pipe in filling in each end. Place filled tubes in a single layer in the baking dish with the sauce.
When all the manicotti are filled and in the dish, spoon the remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Top with pine nuts if desired. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden and bubbly. Serve hot.