So Steve and I have our favorite restaurant, Bellini’s. Correction. We HAD our favorite restaurant.
Over the summer we learned that they closed. We didn’t even get to have one “last meal” there… it was just gone. Besides being our favorite restaurant it was also the restaurant where we held our wedding reception. So obviously quite a few amazing memories there and it became “our” restaurant for special events like anniversaries and Valentine’s.
So besides the obvious emotional attachment they also had about the best damn Italian food
I’ve ever had! We are lucky in that the owner has opened another restaurant, Cassanova’s. I am just hoping they have our favorite meal Manicotti Dunedin.
With finances being low- baby. And time being unavailable- baby. I decided one day to try to recreate the meal here at home.
The manicotti at Bellini’s was stuffed with spinach, chicken and cheese in a white sauce. Delicious.
So I attempted to recreate it. I made a filling of chunks of white meat (that was leftover from another dinner- our aim is also to be frugal here), ricotta cheese, mozarella cheese, spinach (cooked and drained), one egg, some bread crumbs, oregano, basil, salt and pepper.
I did not cook the manicotti noodles. Just in case you don’t already know this here is a pasta tip. If you are going to bake a pasta dish you do not have to pre cook the noodles and you don’t have to buy those special noodles they sell. Any noodle will cook while you bake it as long as it is covered with sauce or cheese… you may have to cook it a bit longer but no biggie.
Not cooking them made them easier to stuff. I stuffed them with the filling and laid them out in my lasagna pan. I then covered them with alfredo sauce. If I was being full on fancy I would have made the alfredo from scratch or spiced up the pre made kind… but with the Little Angel (LA) around I did not have time. So I used the Bertinelli’s and went from there.
I had a container of Publix’s Spinach Artichoke Dip in the fridge. I decided to take a risk and use it. It would either be the best idea ever or the worst. I took a few spoonfulls of it and put it on top of the manicotti and kinda mixed it with the alfredo.
Then I topped the whole thing off with mozarella and paremsan and tossed it in the oven (after covering it with aluminum foil). I baked it at 350 for about an hour. Once I checked to see that the noodles were cooked I left the foil off for about 10 minutes to brown it and served.
I tasted it… my verdit- good but not Bellini’s.
I held my breath as Steve took a bite. I got an immediate reaction.
First of all let me say that when Steve and I started dating he raved and ooooh’d and awwww’d over pretty much everything I cook. Apparently he thinks I’m very good. Which is very nice for me and made me cook more … ultimately resulting in us both gaining a few extra pounds lol. As we’ve been together longer he has pretty much grown accustomed to the fact that I cook. He has his favorites but I don’t quite get the same response as in those early days.
But I did for this! He ooh’d and awww’d and said it was joining the Tortellini and Chicken Ring that I make as his favorites. He said it was different than Bellini’s but just as good. He loved it…. I don’t think I got any leftovers as he took it to lunch and even had it for breakfast one day.
The filling I made was too much for one pan of manicotti so I froze some of it. A few weeks ago I unfroze it and made it again…. it was still excellent. So it was nice to know the filling froze so well.
I wish I had kept the exact measurements but I didn’t. I hope I will be able to recreate this… and if I do I will take measurements.
I also wish I had taken a picture… but it pretty much looked like white covered noodles. Nothing fancy presentation wise.
I’m hoping tonight to try one of the recipes from my Miserly Mom’s book. The writer claims she has a recipe that is as good as McDonald’s fries….. we’ll see!