Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Spinach Manicotti

Manicotti will always hold a special place in my heart.  My mother often made this comforting dish as the pasta course for our holiday gatherings.  As a young girl I remember helping her fill and roll the crepes as she was busy with the rest of the holiday meal.  As I got older I remember graduating to actually making the crepes.  I remember feeling so accomplished when my mother complimented my work.  God only knows if the crepes I was making were actually good or not.  The truth of the matter is that the crepes in this recipe don’t have to be perfect since they will be all rolled up and covered in sauce and cheese.  Inevitably this dish always looks good.  Now my recipe is gluten free and I’ve added some spinach to the dish, but regardless of these changes the memories remain the unchanged.  As I swirl that crepe batter in the pan, I am always transported back to that feeling of pride and accomplishment that my mother instilled all those years ago. 
Ingredients for the Crepes:
4 Eggs
1 cup Milk
½ cup Gluten Free Bisquick
¼ tsp Salt

Filling Ingredients:
16 oz Ricotta
(1) 10 oz pkg. frozen Spinach (defrosted and squeezed to remove the excess water)
1 egg
1/3 cup Pecorino Romano Cheese (grated)
1 clove Garlic (finely grated)
 Salt and Pepper to taste

Video Tutorial:

For the crepe batter, in a medium bowl whisk the eggs very well before adding the milk, GF Bisquick and salt.  Continue whisking until the crepe batter is thoroughly combined.  Set the batter aside allowing the dry ingredients time to absorb the liquid ingredients while you prep the filling.

In a medium bowl, add the ricotta, spinach, egg, pecorino Romano, garlic, salt and pepper. Now stir all of the ingredients together until the mixture is somewhat homogenous.  Now set the filling aside while you make the crepes.

To make the crepes I used an 8” nonstick skillet.  To help ensure that each crepe turns out nicely, be sure to gently stir the batter before each crepe is made to prevent any settling of the ingredients within the batter.  Heat the pan to low then spray the pan with a nonstick cooking spray before pouring about a ¼ cup measure into the pan.  Quickly swirl the pan to coat the bottom.  Continue swirling the batter towards the edges of the pan until there is no longer any movement in the batter then set the pan down on the burner.  Allow the crepe to cook until the top looks dry and the edges slightly start to pull away from the sides of the pan.  It won’t take longer than a minute or so.   Use a spatula to flip the crepe.  Cook it on the second side for about 30 seconds then flip the crepe out onto a large plate.  Repeat the crepe making process stacking them one on top of the next until all of the batter is used.  This recipe made nine crepes. You can adjust the recipe up or down to suite your needs.
Now that the crepes and filling are done you’ll need few cups of your favorite gluten free marinara sauce to assemble the final dish.  I used a 9x13 glass serving dish.  Spoon about ½ cup of the sauce onto the bottom of the dish.  Since I made nine crepes I’ll spoon 1/9 of the filling onto each crepe before rolling it up and placing it seam side down in my serving dish.  Once all of the crepes are filled top them with additional sauce then sprinkle on more grated cheese.  You could use mozzarella on top if you’d prefer.
Cover with foil and bake it at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  When it comes out of the oven let it stand for about 15 minutes to set before serving. 
Beyond the fact that everybody loves manicotti, it’s easy to see why my mother often elected to make them for the holidays.  The dish can be made in advance then covered and refrigerated for a few days.  It’s an inherent choice for entertaining.  If you are baking this dish from the refrigerated state I’d tack on another ten minutes to the baking time. 

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