Monday, January 6, 2014

Awesome non-dariy (or not) Manicotti

This one was almost "pan licking good" at our house and the calorie savings over the original are amazing!  Did I also mention how quick and easy it is to prepare? And I swapped out the high calorie Ricotta and almost no one noticed the difference.  The one child who did notice doesn't usually eat any pasta with red sauce (Lexie) and actually had a few bites and claimed it was "okay" which was a major victory!  Dad and Taylor were almost begging for more.

So what's the secret?  Two things make this amazing.

1) You don't need to pre-cook your noodles so they are super easy to stuff.

2) You use a tofu base instead of ricotta exchanging the approximately 340 per cup skim ricotta for the 175 per cup tofu. 

Oh, and I'll mention too that I tagged this one as a freezer cooking recipe because it's perfect to make in foil pans, freeze and thaw for two days in the fridge (getting in the 24 hours stand time) and then cook.  Love it!
ingredients gathered

To start you make the ricotta tofu ahead (even the day before and let it sit in the refrigerator.)  This was a recipe I originally got from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook which I highly recommend if you're trying to go no dairy and love cheese like I do.

Ricotta Tofu cheese
Tofu simmering
You'll need:  One block of firm Tofu (not silken), 2 Tablespoons of Lemon juice, 1 tsp of dried basil, 1 tsp of dried oregano, 1/2 tsp of garlic powder and 2 tsp. of syrup (maple or karo light).  First you drain the tofu and cut the cube into 4 large chunks.  Place the tofu in a sauce pan and cover with water.  Simmer for 5 minutes, drain.  Cool enough to handle and with your hands crumble into cottage cheese/ricotta size pieces.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to blend.  Either use it right away (if your putting it in this recipe it will blend as it sits the 24 hours, see below) or allow the flavors to blend as you store it in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

Now for the Manicotti...

1 jar of spaghetti sauce of your choice
1 recipe of tofu ricotta cheese (or use regular ricotta if you prefer)
1 box of manicotti tubes
mozzarella (regular or non-dairy) if desired
Tubes waiting to be filled
Simply fill each pasta tube with the cheese leave about 1/2 inch at each end.  Don't over-stuff as this will cause the "cheese" to ooze out when cooking.  Place all tubes (the recipe fills about 12) in a 9X13 cake pan and cover with sauce, add about 1 cup of water around the edges of the pan and refrigerate for 24 hours or at least overnight (you can probably get away with 8-10 hours stand time if you need to.)  Just before cooking add cheese on top if you want (it doesn't really need it but makes it look authentic.)  Bake at 350 for approximately 45 minutes or until noodles are soft when you stick a fork into them and most of the liquid is absorbed.  A little liquid will still absorb as you let the dish stand for a few minutes before serving.

Ready for the Oven-ate the final before I got a picture, oops
I love this one because it is so easy and so easy to have prepared ahead and ready to pop in the oven.  Add a salad and garlic bread and you've got a great dinner.  I roughly figured the calories at 100 per tube.  When I did a search for calories on traditional manicotti it came in at 229 per tube!  When you figure most people will each 2-3 tubes (we did 2 each but my "boys" would have loved 3) that's a significant savings and my Italian food loving two (Taylor and Chris) couldn't tell the difference from regular.  It's definitely a do again at our house!

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