Manicotti was a food that I never grew up with or had even heard of until I married an Italian guy and he dragged me from my Georgia southern roots to a far away state called Connecticut! I soon learned there were other foods besides fried chicken, black-eyed peas, and okra! I have to admit, that it took me years to warm up to these very different type foods. I often shook my head “no” more often than “yes” in the beginning… but eventually I warmed up to tasting them when offered. Every holiday held a new surprise of foods for me, and over time… for the most part, they are now my favorites too!
The very first time I ate a crepe manicotti, was at a cousins wedding… and I thought it was the most delicious and tender pasta with filling that I’d ever eaten. My mother in law had always made home-made pasta, which we turned into manicotti by rolling strips of pasta, but these round crepes were even more tender! I soon learned that Aunt Dolly had a recipe… given to her from her mother in law. It wasn’t long after before I made my first crepes… and they turned out perfect! I could now make my own pasta dough for manicotti and not have to go through the “all day” process like my mother in law did.
I have to say though, those were fun times making pasta at her house… all hands were on deck to help roll the pieces of dough through the pasta machine to flatten into the thickness you wanted… then the dough was laid on a white clean sheet on the bed to dry. Once it was dry, it was boiled… and then the mess came. There would be wet boiled dough all over the kitchen table, often water dripping on the floor, and several of us, from me, my husband and my kids, grabbing hot pasta dough quickly to fill with the ricotta mixture and roll up. You had to move fast before the dough began sticking to itself… and you had to keep dipping your burned fingers in cold water was you worked; hubby enjoyed eating it plain!
Making homemade dough wasn’t something you did often… it was usually made for a holiday meal! Otherwise, we made lasagna from the store-bought lasagna noodles. Since I’ve learned how to make the crepes… I haven’t made lasagna as often, as I found the crepes just so much easier and a better taste!
- 6 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- pinch salt
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 lbs ricotta (whole milk is best but part skim works ok)
- 1-2 eggs (add one first, then another one, if you think you need)
- parsley (no set amount, I add a good heavy sprinkle, then after mixing all together, I usually more)
- mozzarella shredded (4oz. bag – add how much you want) I usually buy the prepackaged shredded, but the block that you shred always has the better taste and melts better.
There are two options in making “manicotti”… cheese only or with meat… meat meaning a meatball mixture… your favorite meatball recipe. When I take that option, I mix up my meatball mix and fry it all crumbled in pan. Remove it to a colander so the oil can drain out, and cool before adding to your ricotta filling. Hubby prefers the meatball mix in his manicotti, while I prefer just the plain cheese. I won out last time, so soon I’ll be making his favorite, the meatball mixture. I’m sure you have your favorite meatball mixture, so I won’t post mine.
Make your favorite pasta sauce… best made day before, but that’s your choice. Mine was a meat sauce, but you can make a marinara (meatless sauce). I added pork, sausage, pepperoni and bracioles to my sauce, the more varieties of meat enhances the flavor! After browning all my meats and adding the cans of crushed tomatoes, I cooked it overnight on low in my crockpot… meat came super tender!
Directions for Ricotta Mixture:
I use a large measuring bowl that will hold it all, add eggs first… mixing well with a whisk before adding everything else… add flour last, slowly incorporating it with the whisk… you want a smooth thin batter… no lumps at the end. This recipe makes about 10-12 crepes. Recipe can easily be doubled… it’s always good to have extra; they can be frozen plain or filled and frozen for another day. I always enjoy them more when I don’t stand in the kitchen to make! You can easily double your ricotta mixture; if making a double batch of crepes, I use 3 lbs ricotta, 2 eggs, parsley, and as much mozzarelle as you want.
Ingredients with first batch of crepes
Cook crepes in a 8-inch frypan… non-stick works best for me, although everything else we cook in our house is only cooked in cast iron… but this frypan curves out on the side, making it easier to flip the crepe. Hubby tried making me use his no. 3 cast iron pan, but as I’d only made them before in this small frypan, I didn’t want to test my luck!
Spray frypan with Pam… always away from stove… the first time I really give a good spray, but then in between crepes, I just give a quick spritz in the middle. (I keep burner on a medium to medium low) I use a small ladle, (mine is almost 1/3 cup), pouring directly in center of hot pan… and while holding it off the medium heat, I slowly swirl the batter around that hasn’t already started to cook… swirling it helps to cook the liquid around the edges of the pan, but don’t go up the pan. I then slowly shake the pan side to side seeing if the crepe moves… when it moves, I know I’m ready to slide a small spatula underneath… quickly flipping it over. After a few seconds of being flipped over, you’ll notice the edges curling… it’s ready to remove. Stack the crepes alternately on each other in a dish… they won’t stick together. Often I make them the day before, so they are chilled when I fill them; be sure and cover well with plastic wrap so they don’t dry out; they can be frozen at this time also.
Frying the Crepes!
Ready to flip when side edges are set and the crepe swooshes around in the pan… quickly flip before over cooking!
After mixing your ricotta mixture, add one crepe to a flat plate, adding two or three heaping tablespoons of mixture in center… spreading it out in a line across the center. I fold the side edge closest to me over the filling… roll it right over the mixture, snuggling it a little, but not tight as the crepe will tear… then continue rolling it jelly roll type. Lay the rolled crepe in your baking dish that you have lightly spooned a layer of sauce in already. When you are closer to the end of filling all your crepes, you might have to try and judge the amounts to use so you don’t run out, or have leftovers. Usually my last three or four have larger amount of fillings, but that’s ok!
Filling the Crepe!
Crepe… rolled and ready for baking pan!
Layer sauce on bottom of dish before laying rolled crepes!
After baking dish is layered on bottom, add more sauce and a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese. Depending on size of your dish, you can add another layer or freeze the rest; they can be frozen either before or after baking. Add extra parsley and mozzarella after adding last layer of sauce. Bake covered with tin foil… mozzarella likes to stick to the tin foil, so I spray the foil lightly with Pam before covering. A little tip… you can even spray Pam on plastic wrap when covering anything that you don’t want the wrap to pull the top off… it really works great!
All Ready for Oven!
To Bake: Bake 350 degree oven until bubbly and steaming hot… about 30 to 40 minutes… depending on how large a pan you made, and whether there are one or two layers. Place baking pan on a cooking sheet just incase it bubbles over. Hubby always fusses when I let that happen! My last ones were just about ready to bubble over… but I saved grace by catching it just in the nick of time!
If you’ve never made the pasta crepes before, do give them a try and let me know! Once you try them… you’ll definitely make again!
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