CHICKEN and SPINACH MANICOTTI
Maggiano's Little Italy Copycat Recipe
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 pound spinach, stemmed, washed, blanched and roughly chopped
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast (poached and shredded by hand or with forks)
3 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded Italian blend cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound no-boil lasagna noodles (Barilla preferred)
1 recipe, garlic Parmesan-Asiago sauce (see recipe below)
Filling: Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often until the mushrooms are browned and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the onions and garlic to the pan and sauté until soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add spinach and cook until all liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add poached chicken, spices, and mix well. Combine ricotta, Parmesan, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, and eggs in medium bowl. Fold into mushroom, chicken, and spinach mixture, adjusting seasonings to taste.
Manicotti: Prepare noodles by pouring 1 inch boiling water into baking dish or deep cookie sheet; add noodles one at a time. Let noodles soak until pliable, about 5 minutes, separating noodles with tip of sharp knife to prevent sticking. Remove noodles from water and place in single layer on clean kitchen towels; discard water in baking dish and dry. Spread dish evenly with enough sauce to coat the bottom of the pan. Using a measuring cup, spread a generous 1/4 cup of the filling evenly onto the bottom three-quarters of each noodle (with short side facing you), leaving top quarter of noodle exposed. Roll into tube shape and arrange in baking dish seam side down. (Add more filling to the ends, if necessary.) Top evenly with remaining sauce, making certain that pasta edges are completely covered.
To Cook: Cover manicotti with aluminum foil. Bake until bubbling, about 40 minutes, then remove foil. Remove baking dish, adjust oven rack to uppermost position (about 6 inches from heating element), and heat broiler. Sprinkle manicotti evenly with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella. Broil until cheese is spotty brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Cool slightly, then serve.
Garlic Parmesan-Asiago Sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups half and half
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives (optional)
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Italian cheese blend
Heat the butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute until fragrant but not brown. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Gradually add the cream and the half and half. Whisk until the mixture begins to thicken and bubble. (It may separate, but keep stirring to combine.) Remove from heat and add the chives, cayenne, and cheese, whisking to melt and combine. Use as indicated with manicotti.