Catherine Salzman, 46, is a model computer-age cook. She stores her recipes in a file on her computer titled "Catherine's New Cookbook," sorting recipes by cuisine and updating them regularly. "I like to play with recipes," says Salzman from her Montville, New Jersey, home. In fact, a few years ago, when her husband, David, was diagnosed with diabetes, Salzman overhauled her recipes. "We revamped our lifestyle, so I emptied my recipe file (and started over)," she says. To improve their diet, Salzman added more vegetable-rich recipes as well as low-fat, lower-calorie choices.
Easy Meatless Manicotti was one delicious result of her culinary makeovers. "Meat was no longer the centerpiece of our meals, so once a week we ate meatless," Salzman says. At the time, the Salzmans' two children, now in college, were living at home, so she tried to cook with (or, more precisely, sneak in) more vegetables. "They weren't willing to eat many vegetables, so I looked for creative ways to use spinach," she says. When she baked the manicotti for her family, no one objected to the spinach―or missed the meat. She also took the dish to potluck suppers, where people always requested her recipe.
The original manicotti started with cooked pasta, which was tricky to handle. It was hard to fill and stuck to the pan. Substituting uncooked shells makes it easier to assemble the manicotti. "But let the dish sit for 10 minutes after baking or the pasta will be chewy," Salzman says. Serve this satisfying dish with a colorful green salad drizzled with tangy vinaigrette and slices of crusty Italian bread.