We made manicotti at the kitchen last week. I was tired of making pots and pots of tomato sauce over the winter (spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna) so I opted for a simple white sauce. Once I made the white sauce, I added some fresh spinach (quickly sauteed in olive oil and garlic) and voila! Manicotti Florentine.
White sauce (or bechamel sauce) is a great recipe to have in your repertoire. If only so you can use it to make homemade macaroni and cheese!
It's so simple. This is a terrific how-to from epicurious.com:
yield: Makes about 1 cup
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, but don't let it brown — about 2 minutes. Add the hot milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat. To cool this sauce for later use, cover it with wax paper or pour a film of milk over it to prevent a skin from forming.
And a very important variation (note: I would add the cheese and take the pot off of the heat to stir):
Stir in 1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese during the last 2 minutes of cooking, along with a pinch of cayenne pepper.