Stuffed manicotti recipes come in two general styles: The first is a red sauce joint classic with large store-bought manicotti pasta tubes, a cheese filling, and sometimes ground beef. The second uses thin homemade crepes (crespelle in Italian) instead of manicotti shells, yielding a more delicate result. This recipe takes the latter route, and according to BA’s own (totally biased) Brad Leone, it’s the best manicotti recipe of all time.

Making crespelle may take a bit of getting used to, so don’t be discouraged if the first few tries aren’t perfect—once they’re covered in cheese and sauce, no one will see their flaws. (Watch Brad’s method here.) The spinach filling is easy, but be sure to use whole-milk ricotta cheese—the skim stuff will make the dish watery, and squeeze the frozen spinach to get rid of excess moisture.

This recipe is a project, but all the prep time is worth it. If you’re looking for a shortcut, store-bought tomato sauce works fine, but making your own marinara isn’t difficult and can bubble away while you perfect those crepes. The work is easily split up over two days: On the first, make the ricotta mixture and the pasta sauce and refrigerate both. On the second, make the crespelle and assemble. Double the recipe for maximum efficiency, then pop one in the freezer to bake a few weeks later. Garnish the bubbling manicotti with a drizzle of good olive oil and more Parmesan, and round the meal out with a big green salad and crunchy garlic toast.

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Author:Brad Leone |

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