Manicotti with Kale and Cheese Filling
1 8oz. package manicotti noodles
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 oz. low-fat cottage cheese
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese
1 ½ cups tightly packed, minced kale leaves, about 6 large leaves, thick stalks removed and discarded
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon black pepper
16 oz. tomato sauce- from scratch or store-bought
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil, about 5 leaves (optional for garnish)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add enough salt to the pot for the water to taste like seawater. Add the manicotti noodles to the pot and cook them until they are al dente- slightly chewy, about 8-10 minutes.
3. While the noodles cook, assemble the filling in a large bowl by mixing the egg, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, mozzarella, kale leaves, basil, salt, red pepper and black pepper together.
4. Drain the cooked manicotti noodles in a colander and set them on a paper towel-lined plate.
5. Spread a cup of the tomato sauce over the bottom of an 8-inch x 8-inch x 3-inch casserole dish. If you don’t have one of these dimensions a medium-sized casserole dish will do.
6. Assemble the manicotti noodles by spooning about 2 ½-3 tablespoons of filling into each noodle.
7. Place the noodles in a single layer to cover the casserole dish. Pour a ½ cup sauce over the noodles, and repeat with another layer of noodles. Repeat a layer of sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. If you are working with a larger casserole dish, you may only need to assemble one layer.
8. Bake for 40 minutes, until manicotti filling is cooked through, piping hot, and melted.
9. Garnish with minced basil leaves.