Saturday, April 13, 2013

Lady Mina's Vegetarian Manicotti

Yes, it looks like I am making a big amount, but there's a reason for my madness. I make this dish and also a large lasagna, which I freeze for another day. This stuff is sooo good that you'll be wanting more the next day. Better than any restaurant I've eaten lately.

You can use regular meat if that's your choice, but I can guarantee you that this is much healthier and there's no way you can tell the difference. Of all the people I've cooked this for, (by request) no one has been able to tell that there's no meat in this dish.

 For the Manicotti stuffing (and the Lasagna).1 box of manicotti, 2 boxes of meatless ground beef, 2 onions chopped small, 3 tbsp. of olive oil, 6 cloves of garlic minced, 1 or 2 boxes of mushrooms sliced, 1 jar of marinera, 2 tsp. fennel, 1 tbsp oregano, 3 tbsp fresh chopped parsley, about 4 tbsp of fresh basil if available salt and pepper to taste.

Saute onions and garlic with the oil, add meatless ground beef and mushrooms and all other spices

add the marinera sauce and a couple of bay leaves cover and simmer on your lowest setting for about 30 minutes. It will NOT be saucy and thats what you want. You will not use all of this on the Manicotti, you will have plenty left for a lasagna, I do this on purpose. 

Boil you manicotti according to instructions, drain and allow them to cool. I actually under-boil them by about 2 minutes, they are easier ti stuff.

For the other 1/2 of the stuffing. In a bowl, mix the Ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, garlic, white pepper, 2 eggs, chopped parsley and a small box of frozen spinach (previously drained and squeeze all the water out) the spinach is optional.

Mix all ingredients well

you will have half (or more) of this left for your lasagna or to freeze for later use. I don't make them that often, so when I do, I make a double batch for 2 different meals, and freeze them.

In a separate bowl, add about 3 spatulas full of the ricotta mix and 3 spatulas full of the meat mixture. Mix the 2 very well and stuff you manicotti shells. Spray you baking dish or individual baking dishes with Pam or coat the with Margarine or butter. After stuffing them, line them up in your baking tray as you go.

For your last step, make the béchamel sauce.
4 tbsp of flour,1/2 cup of earth balance or other margarine (or 2 sticks of butter). Almond milk (or Soy or Reg.), white pepper, salt and about 1 1/2 tbsp of fresh ground nutmeg, 1/2 cup or Mizithra or parmesan cheese.. Allow the butter to melt on low in your sauce pan. Add the flour and stir with the melted butter until you form a paste (like peanut butter) bring the flame up to almost medium and slowly start to add your milk. Do not leave unattended and stir constantly for a smooth béchamel. When you're done adding all you milk, add salt, pepper and nutmeg, mix well and taste. Add more salt if needed. 

Pour the béchamel sauce over the manicotti and top with the parmesano.
At this point you can bake them or out in the fridge for the next day. When ready to bake, cover with foil and bake @ 375 for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake @ 400 for 15 minutes just to brown the top.

About 35 years ago, or should I say many, many moons ago, I went to a small Bistro in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Canary Islands Spain). The place was so cozy and it smelled so delicious, you didn't want to leave. They had clay ovens everywhere, inside as well as outside in their beautiful garden. The red wine was flowing from table to table with no limits. The room inside was filled with laughter and joy and the garden was full of kids playing, while the parents ate and enjoyed themselves.
This is where I ate this dish and it melted in my mouth. I never again found these flavors anywhere in my travels and I also never forgot them. Slowly thru the years, by adding and taking away, I finally mastered this recipe and I can almost guarantee you it's a match.
Hope if you decide to make it, you enjoy it as much as we all do.
Buon Appetito!!!!!

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