Skinny Spinach Manicotti with Homemade Crespelles

Skinny Spinach Manicotti

There’s a reason Skinny Taste has over 100K subscribers. That woman knows her skinny recipes.

I ran across Skinny Taste’s recipe for Skinny Manicotti with Crespelles a few months back and tucked it away in my Pinterest recipe stash. You see, I love manicotti, but it’s not the healthiest of meals. Plus, when it comes to Italian food, there’s another problem.

Mr W is Italian. In fact, we live in what used to be his Italian grandparents’ house. They were SO Italian that there’s a wood fired bread oven on our property and there used to be what amounted to a butcher shop and a walk in freezer in the back part of our basement.

Oh wait, there’s more.

Hair? She’s Italian too.

So what do you think happens when I make Italian food?

“This isn’t bad…maybe you could ask my sister for Grandma’s recipe…”

Now, in general, I’m a far above average cook and they both wolf down and love almost everything I make. But Italian? Well, it doesn’t matter if you’re good at Italian because every family has their own recipes and their own versions of what they like best. So you might as well just give in, get the family recipes and run with it.

But this one…this one caught my eye. Why? Because of the Crespelles. I’d never heard of them and the idea of using what looked like a crepe in place of sheets of pasta sounded interesting. So I tucked it away for future visitation.

[BIG long, stream of consciousness driven sidebar]

So last weekend, Mr W took me out on a surprise date. Part of that date included dinner at a little Italian place in Pittsburgh called Piccolo Forno. (WARNING: If you click that link, turn down your speakers, they think it’s 1998 and launch music the moment you hit the page.)

I ordered lasagna, because that’s what Yelp said to get. It was delicious, but it was also very….odd? It was made with a ragu, so the meat was cooked into such submission that you almost wouldn’t know it was a meat sauce. It also had a bechemel sauce between the layers, which gave it a taste I couldn’t quite figure out.

Until I realized it was “THE” taste.

I don’t know how many of you have been to Italy, but if you have, you likely know what I’m talking about. I’ve been to several parts of Italy and Mr W and I honeymooned in Sicily last fall. I’ve eaten my fair share of authentic Italian food from restaurants tacked on to the back of someone’s house. There’s this taste when you order a pasta dish in Italy. It kind of hits you at the top of the back of your mouth and while not disconcerting, it’s something you never taste when you eat Italian food here.

It’s…meaty..earthy.

My lasagna had that taste.

PLUS, the lasagna noodles? They were like nothing I’d ever had before. They kept their form, but at the same time…they were so soft you could have eaten them even if you were an 85 year old women who had removed her dentures.

It wasn’t until I was waiting in line for the ladies’ room that I spotted an article on the wall giving the background of the chef. No big surprise her, but he was born and raised in the Tuscan countryside. Everything on the menu…and I mean EVERYTHING was made from scratch the old country way.

And the lasagna sheets? Crespelles.

[End really long sidebar]

So of course when I sat down to work out the week’s menu the next day, I pulled this recipe to add to the list.

The crespelles were easy, but I’m glad I did them ahead of time. I took a break from work yesterday afternoon to head down to the kitchen. It took me about 30-45 minutes to make up a full batch. I was using a small 6″ nonstick skillet, so my crespelles came out a bit smaller than the recipe called for, but that just meant I got more, right?

I set them aside on a cooling rack and let them sit until dinner. The manicotti recipe itself took me about 15 minutes to mix up, assemble and get into the oven (plus 25 minutes to cook.) Not bad. I also have no doubt you could make these up ahead of time, cover the pan and sit it in the fridge until you got home the next day.

So let’s get to the recipes…(then I’ll tell you what they thought and why I am not in love with crespelles.)

Homemade Skinny Crespelles (via Skinny Taste)

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups 1% milk
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Olive oil spray

She suggests you throw everything but the spray into a blender. I just whisked all the wet ingredients together and then kept whisking while adding in the flour. Heat a 7″ skillet over medium low heat. Set a cooling rack or two next to it. Then get ready for some non-stop crespelle station style action.

Get yourself a 1/4 cup measure and fill it about 3/4 full with batter. Give your pan a spray of Pam, then pour the batter into the center. Pick up the pan and tilt it to let the batter spread to cover the pan. You’ll need to sort of tilt it up, then swirl it around to get it to make a clean run around the pan for a full circle. Set the pan back down and give it about 15-20 more seconds. Use a nonstick silicon spatula to raise up the edge of the crespelle, then grasp it with your fingers and flip it over to cook for 10-15 seconds on the other side.

It takes a few minutes to get the hang of it, but it’s pretty easy. Besides, if you mess up the first few or tear them, set them aside. I promise you you’ll still want them.

As I took these out of the pan, I set them on a  wire rack to cool. I found I needed rack space for two to cool at a time. By the third one, I could take the first cooling crespelle and stack it. By the fourth I was stacking the second crespelle, etc…

Once you’re done, you can set these on the counter till dinner or wrap them and put them in the fridge till the next day (Or the freezer till the next month.)

At dinner time, pull out this recipe:

Homemade Skinny Spinach Manicotti (via Skinny Taste)

  • 16 oz part skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups 2% milk reduced fat mozzarella cheese, shredded (reserve 1/2 cup)
  • 1 large egg
  • 10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan Reggiano
  • salt and pepper
  • 16 crespelles
  • Spaghetti Sauce

Mix the ricotta, 1.5 cups of mozzarella, egg, spinach and parmesan reggiano in a bowl. Pour some spaghetti sauce into the bottom of a 9×13″ pan. Take a crespelle, put two nice size spoonfulls of filling on it and roll into a small tube. Place it in the pan, seam side down. Repeat until you run our of space or crespelles. (I ran out of space first…yay!)

Spoon a little sauce on top and then add remaining cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes.

Skinny Spinach Manicotti as served

So now…the verdict.

Chorus of kids: “Mom! What IS this?! It’s sooo good! Can you please pack it in my bento tomorrow?!”

Mr W: Ok, so he didn’t say a whole bunch beyond “this is really good”…but I had to cut him off at 5 manicotti because I needed to save leftovers for the kid’s lunches and for Hair.

Hair: “This is the best manicotti I’ve ever had! It’s even better than my aunt’s! It’s delicious!”

I think I could have doubled the recipe and barely had leftovers. The only reason I got the kids to stop eating more was because I’d promised dessert.

Which brings me to the OTHER great thing about this recipe.

Crespelles are crepes.

Oh yeah baby, crepes. You know those things you put bananas and nutella in? Those things you fill with yogurt and fruit? The one food that acts as a breakfast, meal and dessert, all based on what you stuff them with? Yeah, those.

According to Gina at Skinny Taste, they have about 50 calories each. Of course I got twice the number of crespelles she said I would, so that means ours were about 25 calories each.

Oh baby.

So for dessert, they had their choice of sliced apples or sliced bananas with chocolate or vanilla ice cream and peanut butter or caramel.

Thing Two and I opted for a light smear of peanut butter, a banana quarter, a bit of chocolate ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate on top. Thing Three traded banana for apples, but had the same. Thing One, Mr W and Hair all went with apples, peanut butter and vanilla ice cream wrapped up and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

I think I’m going to have fun playing with crespelles.

Don’t worry, I’ll share. 🙂

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