When I was growing up, every holiday meal in my house started with pasta. If we were lucky, it was lasagna made with fresh pasta. Or (if we were really lucky!) my father’s famous manicotti, which were somehow both unbelievably light and incredibly decadent. There was something about them that always felt special and celebratory.
The trick to manicotti is to make the crepes as thin as you can and not to overstuff or oversauce them. The idea is to create a balance of the three components: crepe, filling and sauce. This is a great dish for entertaining, but also good for a (slightly ambitious) family dinner. The whole recipe only takes about an hour from start to finish.
For the crepes
- 4 eggs
- 6 tablespoons water
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup flour
- Vegetable oil, for greasing the pan
For the sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
- 2 cups crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 leaves basil
For the filling
- 1/2 pound ricotta
- 1 egg
- 1/2 pound mozzarella, shredded or grated
- 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
- 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, grated
- 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon salt
To make the crepes:
1. Make the crepe batter by whisking together the eggs, milk, water and salt. Add in the flour, little by little, continuing to whisk until all flour is incorporated and you have a smooth batter with no lumps.
2. Cover the batter and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
To make the sauce:
1. Add olive oil and garlic cloves to a pot and cook over low heat until the garlic starts to sizzle, about 1 minute. Add in tomatoes, salt and basil.
2. Cook over medium heat just until the sauce begins to simmer, about 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and reserve the sauce.
To make the manicotti:
1. Make the filling by adding the eggs to the ricotta and mixing. Fold in the Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, parsley and salt and mix well to fully incorporate. Refrigerate the mixture until you are ready to use it.
2. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Heat an 8-inch nonstick pan over low heat. Grease the pan very lightly by adding a bit of oil to the hot pan, then wiping with a paper towel.
3. Add in a scant 1/4 cup of the crepe batter, working quickly to swirl the batter around the pan to create a thin, even layer.
4. Cook until the batter starts to appear dry around the edges, about 20-30 seconds, taking care not to let the crepe brown. Flip over and cook on the other side, about 20-30 seconds.
5. Repeat with the remaining batter, regreasing the pan after every third crepe. Stack the crepes on top of each other as they are completed.
6. Cover the bottom of a large baking dish (or two smaller baking dishes) with a thin, even layer of sauce.
7. Assemble the manicotti by putting 2 tablespoons of filling about 1 inch from the top edge of a crepe. Roll the crepe, starting from the top, and flatten lightly. Place the crepe, seam-side down, in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining crepes and filling. The manicotti should be placed in a single layer in the baking dish, not stacked on top of each other.
8. Spread the remaining sauce on top of the manicotti and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling lightly.
9. Remove the manicotti from the oven and allow to rest for five minutes before serving to allow the filling to set.
Enjoy some more great pasta with these recipes from Food Republic: