Zucchini Ricotta Manicotti

Zucchini Manicotti

When you pull this casserole out of the oven, the first thing you'll see is bubbling cheese, that tempts you even when it is too hot to eat. Then, only seconds later, a hot steam that carries the smell of fresh basil and ripe tomatoes hits you. By the time the dish makes in to the counter, the sizzling begins to slow. With in a few minutes the dish sits still. It begs for you, even now when it would burn your tongue. (Maybe you sneak a bite anyways).  

By now the whole house has smelled like home cooked Italian food for 20 minutes or more, and people are beginning poke their heads into the kitchen. Is it ready? Can we eat yet? What are you up to in here? 

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Zucchini Manicotti

Cheese. Wine. More cheese in the form of ricotta. That is what you are up to. This recipe is pretty much everything. If your "everything" is ooey, gooey, and delicious, that is. And somehow folded in there is a pile of vegetables too: zucchini for noodles, spinach folded in with the ricotta, and a homemade tomato sauce that will make you proud.

This is a pile of cheesy Italian flavor you'll feel really good about eating. Despite begin literally stuffed with cheese, this recipe is light: it doesn't leave you feeling groggy the way this dish would if it was made with traditional pasta. We serve it with extra marinara sauce (I love homemade marinara sauce) and a side salad, and call it a meal. Oh--and don't forget the glass of wine! Red is perfect for this dish. 

Zucchini Manicotti
Zucchini Manicotti

If you're worried about the logistics of wrapping a bunch of cheese in thinly sliced zucchini, I don't blame you! But it's even easier than I originally thought it would me, so watch the video below to see how this impressive dish comes together, and you'll see you have nothing to worry about!

Zucchini Ricotta Manicotti

Paleo, Primal, Grain-Free    |       |    Print This Recipe

Zucchini is cut thin and rolled around ricotta as a stand in for traditional manicotti!

Serves: 4   |    Total Time:



Ingredients:

  • 2 medium zucchinis
  • 1 egg
  • 1-1/2 cup ricotta
  • 1 cup grated parmesan, split in half
  • 1 8-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed
  • Salt & pepper


  • For sauce:
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced - plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • Salt & pepper

Directions:

  1. First, make the marinara sauce: heat avocado oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Dice white onion, and mince garlic. Add both to sauce pan once oil is hot, and sauté until the onion is translucent and the garlic begins to brown. Pour wine into pot, and use a wooden spoon to scrape any brunt pieces from the bottom of the pot. Allow to simmer, then add tomatoes. Stir. Add oregano and basil, and then season with salt & pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
  2. Spread 1/2 of sauce in the bottom of a 9x9 baking dish.
  3. Make the ricotta filling next. Place thawed spinach in a fine mesh sieve and squeeze out any excuses water. Place in a mixing bowl, and combine with ricotta, 1/2 cup grated parmesan, egg, and a few sprinkles of salt and freshly cracked pepper. Stir until combined.
  4. Preheat oven to 400°F and assemble: use a potato peeler or mandolin to slice the zucchini in long, thin strips (watch the video above to see an example). Place two zucchini strips on a flat surface so that they overlap by about 1/2 an inch. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture on the short edge of the zucchini strips, and then roll up the zucchini strips around the ricotta like a roll of sushi. Place in the baking dish. Repeat until you run out of ricotta.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan over the manicottis and place in oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until cheese is gooey, and sauce is bubbly. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with fresh basil as garnish. I also serve with extra sauce (the remaining 1/2) because I love marinara sauce!
  6. Note: I find that when I get to the middle of the zucchini, it becomes hard to slice because of the seeds, so I move on to the second zucchini and reuse the middle of each zucchini later for another meal.

Maple, Apple & Sage Breakfast Sausage

Maple Apple & Sage Breakfast Sausage

Through the doorway and to the left of the fridge, my grandpa would cook breakfast sausage on an electric griddle. It's frozen like a photograph, just like that in my mind.

My view is from the a brown vinyl chair that's pulled up to my grandparent's kitchen table. Across the table there's a small TV, it's 10-inch screen grey and lifeless, and a stack of envelopes. Light comes in through a window behind my grandfather as he uses a spatula to serve sausage patties on a plate. 

I can almost taste them now, twenty-odd years later, crispy on the outside and rich with maple flavor. My tastebuds have forgotten everything else on the plate, but for some reason that sausage sticks with me. 

Maple Apple & Sage Breakfast Sausage
Maple Apple & Sage Breakfast Sausage

Breakfast sausage is still one of my favorite things to eat in the morning, but I hadn't made my own from scratch until working on this recipe. It's a combination of my favorite breakfast sausages: sweet, from the addition of maple syrup and apple, a sprinkling of fennel and nutmeg, and fresh sage. You can use whatever ground pork you prefer, though for a more transitional sausage you'll want something high in fat-- 20% or even 30% fat. If you prefer a leaner end result, go ahead and use a 10% fat ground pork (the end result will just be a bit drier). 

Maple Apple & Sage Breakfast Sausage
Maple Apple & Sage Breakfast Sausage

Maple, Apple & Sage Breakfast Sausage

Paleo, Primal, Grain-Free    |       |    Print This Recipe

Ground pork is mixed with maple, apple, and herbs & spices for a savory-sweet breakfast sausage.

Serves: 4   |    Total Time:



Ingredients:

  • 1/2 apple
  • 1 pound ground pork (I prefer ground pork that has more fat for this recipe, such as a 80/20 ground pork, but you can use what ever you like. The leaner the meat, the drier the end result will be)
  • 1/4 heaping teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

Directions:

  1. Core the half apple and dice into very small pieces— no bigger than a 1/4 of a centimeter. Place in mixing bowl.
  2. Add pork, salt, pepper, nutmeg, minced sage, fennel, and maple syrup to the mixing bowl. Use your hands to mix all ingredients until full incorporated.
  3. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the oil to the skillet.
  4. Form pork mixture into small patties, 1-2 inches in diameter, and place in skillet when oil is hot. Cook for 5 minutes on the first side, until the bottom turns a golden brown color. Flip to second side, cooking for 5 more minutes or until cooked through. Serve hot.

Maple Roasted Carrot Salad

Maple Roasted Carrot Salad

The sunset glimmers for a few minutes as I drive home. I stayed late at work, but the days are getting longer, so I get to catch this brilliant pink and indigo show anyways. By the time I make it home, the moon is full and the rest of the sky dark. You can tell this means spring is coming, but here the ground is still frozen and hard. 

I am just starting to think about what we will put into our garden and carrots are one of the first crops that comes to mind. They are one of the first crops we'll be able to plant--leafier greens will need to wait until after our frost date, which is in May. Because that's still a long ways off, I try to reel in my thoughts and expectations. 

Maple Roasted Carrot Salad
Maple Roasted Carrot Salad

Still these spring thoughts put me in a springy mood, so when I get to the kitchen the meal that ensues is bright and fresh. Carrots are the cornerstone, roasted in avocado oil so that even though they are off-season, their sweetness is bold. 

The rest is simple: baby spinach (more spring vibes there), the biggest, juiciest dried cranberries I've ever had (they're from Made in Nature), and toasted walnuts. 

Maple Roasted Carrot Salad

Maple Roasted Carrot Salad

Paleo, Primal, Grain-Free    |       |    Print This Recipe

Carrots are roasted with avocado oil and maple syrup, which brings out their natural sweetness.

Serves: 4   |    Total Time:



Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup avocado oil
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger, grated on microplane
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 large carrots
  • 6 cups baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts

  • For the dressing:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Cut carrots into equally sized sticks, about 3 inches long and 1 centimeter thick. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, avocado oil, orange zest, ginger, and salt. Place carrots in bowl and toss to coat. Then, spread carrots out on sheet pan in even layer and place in oven.
  3. Bake carrots for 20 minutes, until they are softened through and starting to brown on the edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  4. Whisk together ingredients for dressing. Fill salad bowl with spinach, and top with carrots, cranberries, and walnuts. Pour dressing over salad when ready to serve, and toss.

Maple Roasted Carrot Salad