Over the past week, I made manicotti and crepes in brodo, two very different presentations. Manicotti are perhaps the lightest of all pasta dishes, mainly because of the crepes. You can fill the crepes and top them with sauce a couple of days in advance if you are serving them for a fancy dinner or if you have a crazy week coming up but still want a home-cooked meal.
Note: This recipe doubles or even triples easily, which makes it especially nice for hosting a crowd. When I'm serving this for my extended family, which can easily include 20 people, I'll make a big batch of crepe batter and cook them all the day before I assemble the trays of manicotti.
to serve 4 as a main course or 6 as an appetizer
2 cups (one pound, a small container) ricotta cheese (I like Maggio's whole milk ricotta)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped cooked spinach, cooled
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese (I prefer pecorino romano to parmesan)
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups of your favorite tomato sauce
1 recipe of crepes (a dozen)
additional pecorino romano and mozzarella cheese (optional)
Combine the first five ingredients well. Season with salt and pepper. Put about 3/4 cups of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan. Put about 1/3 cup of the cheese mixture in a row across the first crepe, about an inch from the bottom. Roll crepe and place it in the dish. To arrange them, plan on making two rows of six crepes each, so you will place the first one with the long end along the 13-inch side of the pan. Repeat with remaining crepes (five more in this row, then begin another row of 6 along the 13-inch side). Top with remaining tomato sauce. If you like, you can grate more pecorino romano cheese on top before putting the casserole dish in the oven. Bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly. Remove from oven, add optional additional mozzarella cheese (enough to cover nicely), and return to oven until the cheese in melted. Wait a few minutes after removing from oven before plating to make the manicotti easier to serve.
Next time, I'll give you a very different crepe recipe, one that I found when we were on our honeymoon in Quebec.