I learned to make this dish at a raw food “cooking” class I took one summer in Chicago, in the Ukranian Village neighborhood. I’ve since served it as an appetizer at many dinner parties and family gatherings (after tweaking it a bit to make it my own), and it’s received RAVE reviews. Several people have said it was actually their favorite thing I served! One tip: the “marinara” sauce simply makes the dish, don’t skip it!
It is just a bit fussy to slice the zucchini into thin strips. So when I’m making this dish for myself, I sometimes just dice the zucchini and stir it into the filling. It’s not exactly manicotti that way, but it’s still delicious! I serve it with the marina on the side. This dish freezes extremely well in an air-tight package, so feel free to make a big batch.
serves 6 as a main dish
spinach & “cheese” filling
8 c spinach, stemmed and chopped (I don’t recommend using frozen spinach)
1/2 c parsley
1 1/2 T Italian seasonings (basil & oregano)
(or 4 drops each of doTERRA Basil & Oregano essential oil)
1 c raw sunflower seeds, soaked 4 – 6 hours
1 c raw pumpkin seeds, soaked 4 – 6 hours
3 cloves garlic
1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes, soaked 4 hours & chopped
1/2 c lemon juice
1/2 c water
1 t himalayan crystal salt
2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped (removing seeds minimizes the liquid)
1 red bell pepper
1 c sun-dried tomatoes
2 T minced fresh basil (or 2 t dried) (or 2 drops doTERRA essential oil)
2 T minced fresh oregano (or 2 t dried) (or 2 drops doTERRA essential oil)
3/4 t himalayan salt
2 cloves garlic
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
4 medium zucchini
2 T olive oil
To make the noodles:
Wash the zucchini and slice off their ends. Run them lengthwise through a mandoline to make very thin slices. The first few and the last few may not be usable – save the scraps for a veggie smoothie! Brush the slices lightly with olive oil and stack in a baking dish. This softens the zucchini so it rolls better – especially if your slices are on the thick side.
To make the spinach and “cheese” filling
In a Cuisinart, chop the spinach and parsley – you may need to do it in two batches. Don’t chop it too small, because you’re going to re-process it when you add it to the rest of the ingredients.
Empty the Cuisinart bowl (no need to wash it) and combine the pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, salt and Italian seasonings. Scrape down the bowl. With the machine running, drizzle in the lemon juice. Scrape the bowl again.
Working in batches, combine the parsley – spinach mixture with the seed mixture. It may seem at first like way too much spinach, but as you process it, it all gets worked in. The first time I made it, I used about half the spinach called for in the recipe, and my tasters called it “woody.” If necessary, add some water to make everything feel nice and moist – but certainly not runny or soupy. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.
To make the marina sauce
In the empty Cuisinart bowl (again, no need to wash it), process all the ingredients except olive oil. Leave it just a tad chunky – it’s supposed to be like salsa, not puree. Finally, stir in the olive oil.
To assemble the manicotti
Lay a strip of zucchini on a work surface. Scoop out a small mound of the spinach – seed filling mixture and roll it up. How much filling to use depends on how long your strips are. Transfer to a serving plate as you finish each roll, tucking the end of the zucchini strip underneath the bottom.
If you prefer making entree-sized manicotti, just lay three zucchini strips next to each other, overlapping them somewhat.
Put a generous dollop of marinara sauce on top of each roll and serve!