Have you ever tasted food so good that you dreamed about it after? It was probably something out of the norm, something not on your normal recipe rotation. You probably didn't even make it yourself. It was dinner at a friend's house, or a new restaurant. It doesn't happen often, but when it does it's something that sticks with you all day (like a sex dream, only you don't feel even the slightest bit guilty about it).
Manicotti from Sal's in Little Italy (remember our trip to the Big Apple?) is one of my dream-dishes. It comes up on a regular basis in conversation when Dick and I are out to eat. It's usually something like, "Yeah, this is good...but remember that manicotti at Sal's?" It was the perfect amount of cheesy - like so cheesy you couldn't even talk with a mouth full no matter how hard you tried! That's my perfect amount of cheesy. We loved NYC (and all the food we ate there) so much the first time around, that we're going back for our Christmas vacation! It's a pretty safe bet that we'll be stopping at Sal's.
Well, I finally tried my hand at manicotti. It wasn't quite what I'd hoped for on the cheesy side, but we didn't do much talking while we ate. Dick and I both loved it! And I have to admit I was a bit skeptical because the recipe called for crepes rather than pasta. I'm pretty sure I'd never had it that way before, but I'll definitely make it that way again. Not one complaint from this kitch. Not one. I loved the spinach, and I think next time I'll add some mushrooms, too. And I know that not everyone is a fan of leftovers, but we're big fans here. I don't like paying for lunch if I can just bring it from home. Especially if I loved it as dinner. I loved it as dinner, and then I loved it as lunch the next day. Give it a try, because I bet you will, too.
Adapted from 2 recipes found at www.foodnetwork.com
Crepes for Manicotti
1 c. flour
1 c. milk
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
1. Mix ingredients together and stir until smooth.
2. Drop by spoonfuls or 1/4 c. of mixture onto a hot, lightly greased nonstick 6-inch pan. Crepes should form and become dry almost instantly as you swirl the pan and its contents. Turn crepe over to cook other side quickly. Remove cooked crepe to waxed paper to cool.
**They can be stacked w/ waxed paper between each and then placed in the freezer until you're ready to fill them. This makes about 9 crepes that can be filled with more than just ricotta.
Filling for Manicotti
1 pound fresh spinach, stems trimmed and well washed or a 10-oz package frozen spinach, thawed
kosher salt, plus 1/2 tsp
3 c. marinara sauce
1 1/2 c. ricotta cheese
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
freshly ground pepper
pinch ground nutmeg
2 tsp. unsalted butter, diced
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat, and season generously with salt.
2. Fill a medium bowl with ice water and season with salt, as well.
3. Boil the spinach, uncovered, until tender, about 3-4 minutes.
4. Remove with a slotted spoon, (do not drain), and immediately plunge the spinach into the ice water.
5. Drain and squeeze the excess water from the spinach, and finely chop.
**Alternatively, if using thawed spinach, simply squeeze, and finely chop.
6. Cover the bottom of a 9x13-inch ovenproof baking dish with 1 c. of the marinara sauce.
7. In a medium mixing bowl, evenly combine the ricotta, mozzarella, and 1/3 c. of the Parmesan, the eggs, and the spinach.
8. Season with 1/2 tsp salt, nutmeg, and pepper to taste.
9. Spoon some of the cheese into the center of each crepe, then fold over the edges to close. Line them up in the baking dish with the seam side down.
10. Cover with the remaining sauce and scatter the cheese on top. Dot with the butter.
Bake for 30 minutes, and serve.