A Day Off

My husband did not have to work today and we celebrated his long-awaited weekend, by sleeping in.  We were able to do some organizing  and get our extra room ready for the company that will be passing through this weekend. It is always a treat when I get to spend a full day with my husband. To celebrate we made Baked Spinach and Chick Pea Manicotti.

Baked Manicotti

Baked Spinach and Chick Pea Manicotti

12 Manicotti pasta shells

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

One small Onion, small dice

One medium clove Garlic, sliced

12 oz fresh or 1 package frozen spinach

15 oz whole-milk ricotta cheese

1 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded*

Small handful fresh Basil

1-15.5 oz can Garbanzo Beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup Parmesan Reggiano Cheese, shredded

Salt and Pepper to taste

     Cream Sauce

3/4 cup Milk

1/2 cup Heavy Cream

3 cups Gruyère Cheese, shredded*

2 Tbsp fresh Basil, finely chopped

2 Tbsp  Parmesan Reggiano Cheese, shredded

Pastry bag with wide plain tip, or gallon zip lock bag

1 1/2 cup Mozzarella, shredded*

*If you do not have the specified cheese, or if you want to experiment with another type of cheese, be sure to follow these guidelines and it will still turn out delicious and the right consistency.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lightly oil a casserole dish.

Cook the manicotti in slightly salted water. Be sure to follow the cooking time instructions, and watch carefully, otherwise they turn out over cooked and will split easily when you try to fill them. When manicotti is cooked drain it and roll it out onto a lightly oiled baking sheet to cool slightly.

In a large saucepan heat olive oil, enough to cover pan. Dice one small onion, and add to pan to saute. After two minutes add the sliced garlic. Wash and cut the fresh spinach, or add in package of frozen spinach. Salt and pepper to taste. Let fresh spinach wilt down, or place lid on pan and let frozen spinach thaw.

In a food processor, blender, or in a bowl with an immersion blender, add the ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, basil, chick peas,  parmesan reggiano, and salt and pepper to taste and blend until a paste like consistency. Add in the saucepan mixture and blend until combined. (Make sure to be careful when blending a hot mixture in the blender, it can expand quickly. Always check that you have the lid on, before blending.)

Add the mixture to a piping bag or into a gallon ziplock bag, with a small hole cut in the corner. Pipe the mixture into the slightly cooled manicotti, and place in the casserole dish. When they are all filled, if there is any left over mixture add it into the open spaces between the manicotti.

For the sauce add the milk, heavy cream, gruyère cheese,  basil, and parmesan reggiano to a sauce pot, cooking it over medium-low heat. You want to be careful not to scald the milk, but it has to be warm enough to melt the cheese, don’t rush this, the more time you allow it to melt, the creamier it will be. Once the cheese has fully melted pour the sauce over the stuffed manicotti. Top with the shredded Mozzarella and place on the center rack in the oven. Cook for 30-35 minutes. Allow to rest for five to ten minutes, as it will be very hot, and then enjoy!

We loved this dish and can’t wait to eat it again tomorrow, for leftovers!