Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spinach and Mushroom "Manicotti" Crepes

A couple of months ago, my family and I went to a wonderful Italian restaurant in Boston called Vinny T's. I chose manicotti and was surprised when I was presented with creamy ricotta wrapped in a crepe, instead of a traditional manicotti noodle. After the delicious meal, I looked at the nutritional differences between the pasta tube normally used for manicotti and a crepe made with my healthier recipe (see previous "Basic Crepes" post). I was delighted to discover that a crepe is half the carbs and fewer calories than it's noodle counterpart! One manicotti pasta noodle is 70 calories and 14 carbohydrate, while a crepe is 63 calories and only 7 carbs. Not only that, but I find the manicotti dish made with crepes to be more filling, which means I eat less. For me, one manicotti crepe is as satisfying as 2 or 3 of the filled pasta tubes.

The great part about this recipe is that all the components can be made ahead of time (up to 2 days, if stored in the refrigerator), from the crepes to the sauce. When it's time to prepare dinner, the assembly is quick and the cooking time only 25-30 minutes. Recently, I made this dish for a dinner party and my time in the kitchen was reduced significantly because everything was ready to go. I even filled the crepes just prior to my guests' arrival - all I had to do was pop them in the oven! So, make a batch of crepes and save a few for this delicious, healthier alternative to an Italian classic.

Spinach and Mushroom "Manicotti" Crepes
(Makes 8 servings)

8 crepes made from my "Basic Crepes" recipe (see 4/6/10 post)
1 (10 oz.) package of frozen chopped spinach (thaw or microwave for 5 minutes)
15 oz. fat-free ricotta cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon lemon pepper
1 teaspoon basil, dried (or 2 teaspoon fresh, chopped)
½ cup fresh mushrooms, sliced & rough chopped
1 egg, slightly beaten
1½ cups No sugar added spaghetti sauce (I use Hunt's brand)
1 teaspoon Italian herbs, dried
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup shredded low moisture, part skim mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Spray a 13" x 9" baking pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

2. Squeeze the excess moisture from the chopped spinach and place in a medium mixing bowl. Add the ricotta and parmesan cheeses, nutmeg, lemon pepper, basil, mushrooms and egg. Stir with a fork until ingredients are well combined; set aside. (This mixture can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to use. It will stay fresh in refrigerator for 2 days; stir before filling crepes.)

3. In another mixing bowl, combine the spaghetti sauce, herbs and garlic powder. Stir to combine. Measure ¼ cup of the sauce into the baking dish and spread with a spoon or rubber spatula to coat the bottom of the pan with a thin layer.

4. Take one crepe and spoon a slightly rounded 1/3 cup of the ricotta-spinach mixture into the center of the crepe. Spread along the center of the crepe with the back of a spoon or rubber spatula. Fold sides of crepe over mixture to create a tube. Place crepes, overlap side down, into the baking dish. Repeat with remaining crepes, laying them side-by-side in the baking dish. Top with remaining tomato sauce and sprinkle evenly with the shredded cheese. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 3-4 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Information per stuffed crepe: 168.3 calories, 15.8 g carbohydrate, 4.5 g total fat, 2.7 g saturated fat, 1.6 g fiber, 12 g protein

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

How does this recipe compare with traditional spinach manicotti made with pasta? By using fat-free ricotta cheese and crepes instead of pasta, this recipe is significantly less in calories, carbohydrate and fat. For comparison, the nutritional information per serving of traditional spinach manicotti is 270 calories, 51 g carbohydrate, 10 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 2 g fiber and 11 g protein.

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