Chicago winter is brutal … usually. Maybe not this year so far, but we all know it’s one ass-kicker of a season when it gets going. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard friends and family say that they’d love to live here, but can’t bring themselves to due to the winters. My usual response is to laugh like a Norseman and call them weaklings.
A slightly better one is to explain that one advantage of occupying an occasionally tundra-like clime is a solid 4-5 months of hearty comfort food. Of the various worthy selections, I today offer up manicotti in white sauce. It’d be hard to enjoy this on a 103 degree day with an unforgiving sun shining in your face. But when I manage to complete a slog home from the L with wet feet and a mighty hunger, it’s everything I need, all at once.
Plenty of butter and cheese here. Needless to say, this isn’t everyday food. But occasionally, the stalwart gentlemen and gentlewomen of our fair city require extraordinary sustenance. And this is just the thing for that. You’ve got to make pasta dough, so either get practicing or make friends with an Italian grandmother. It’s not hard once you get the hang of it.
You can use frozen spinach in the filling – just make sure it’s as water-free as you can get it when you combine it with everything else. One shortcut you CAN’T use, on the other hand, is green-can parmesan “cheese” dust. It won’t melt properly, and it’s no good for this.