I'm sorry this dish is so un-photogenic, but it really is delicious!
Although it looks like a lot of work, this recipe is deceptively simple and you will only dirty one pot and one bowl to make it (well, plus the pan you bake it in). My mom taught me years ago that you never need to cook manicotti or lasagna before you make it, it will end up just fine after baking. So as odd as it may seem to be piping the filling into dry manicoti shells, it really will work!
(adapted from Jamie's Dinners by Jamie Oliver)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
a large pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 large bunch spinach, washed and stems removed
1 handful fresh basil, stems thinly sliced and leaves roughly chopped
1 28 oz can whole plum tomatoes (do not drain)
1/2 cup water
black pepper, freshly ground
1 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese, divided
16 manicotti tubes
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
Preheat the oven to 375 F
Heat a medium sauce pan over medium, and add about a tablespoon of olive oil.
When the oil is fragrant and swirls easily in the pan, add one of the sliced garlic cloves, nutmeg and oregano.
Stir for a minute or two, then stir in the spinach, a little at a time, until it wilts enough that you can fit it all in the pan.
Cook until all the spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes
Put the spinach into a large bowl to cool.
Wipe out the pan, then add another tablespoon of oil and place over medium-high heat.
Add the other garlic clove, basil stems, the tomatoes with their liquid, and water.
Bring to a boil and add sugar, about 1/2 a tsp of sea salt, and a pinch of freshly ground pepper.
Turn the heat down slightly to simmer for about 10 minutes, or until thickened. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon.
Remove from heat and add basil leaves.
Squeeze out excess liquid from the spinach, and reserve in the large bowl.
Chop the spinach and place it back in the bowl with the liquid. Add the ricotta and a 1/2 a cup of parmesan, plus a pinch or two of salt. Mix well.
Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce over the bottom of a metal or glass 13 x 9" pan
Place the ricotta mixture in a quart or gallon size ziploc bag and cut one corner. Pipe the mixture into the manicotti shells and place on the tomato sauce in the pan.
Pour the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the manicotti.
Stir together the sour cream and 1/2 a cup of parmesan cheese, with a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Stir in a little water, then pour over the top of the tomato sauce.
Spread the shredded mozzarella evenly over the dish, then cover with foil
Bake about 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake about 10 minutes more, or until the cheese is brown and bubbly.
Remove from the oven and let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.