My best manicotti recipe

25 Apr

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This all began, as so many good things do, with a call to Aunt Anna in Queens. It was Easter Sunday morning and she was in her kitchen preparing dinner. I was at home here in Maine.

“What are you cooking anyway?” I asked after we’d been chatting for quite some time. “You never mentioned.”

“Right now, my meatballs,” Anna said a bit distractedly. “The manicotti I made yesterday. I’m just taking them out of the refrigerator now.”

And for days and days these were the only words that I could hear. It had been a while since I’d made manicotti. It was time.

A quick text to my friends Laura and Bob netted a nice tin of fresh ricotta from the excellent Lioni Latticini in New Jersey—and I was off and running. Thanks to my aunt.

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Thin crepes are the key to good manicotti, the thinner the better. That means the crepe mix has to be super light and so mixing it in a blender is best. (I’ve included the full list of ingredients at the end.) A super hot omelette pan doused in butter is the way to cook the crepes. I keep melted butter on the stovetop and apply it with a bristle brush before pouring out the mix for each crepe.

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To make thin crepes you must barely cover the pan’s surface with the mixture. We’re not talking pancakes here, we’re talking just-thicker-than-paper type stuff. After the mix is set and drying flip it over with a spatula. If your pan is properly heated this won’t take long at all. (I pour the mix straight from the blender into the pan, by the way. That way I can add more milk to the mix as things thicken up, which they will.)

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Here’s what the cooked side should look like. After flipping the crepe it only takes maybe 30 seconds to finish the other side.

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This is about how thick you want your crepes to be. That’s a blue spatula I’m holding behind one of the crepes; you can see the color coming through, right? Nice and thin!

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These crepes can be piled on top of each other without sticking. And if you aren’t making the manicotti right away the crepes can be refrigerated for a couple days. I refrigerated these overnight, wrapped in a roll using wax paper.

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This is a pretty traditional filling, made with fresh ricotta, fresh mozzarella and such (again, the full list of ingredients is below).

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A simple fold from one side and then the other does the trick.

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Lay a light dose of tomato sauce in a baking pan, then line the manicotti up, like so.

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Add more sauce on top, cover in aluminum foil and throw into the oven, preheated to 375 degrees F. Remove the foil after 30 minutes and continue baking for another 15 minutes or so.

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These manicotti are super light and very delicate—a real favorite around here, in fact.

The only thing that could have made them better this time would be to share them with the woman who put the idea into my head in the first place. Hopefully it won’t be too very long before we’re able to see each other again.

Manicotti Recipe

Makes at least two dozen manicotti, likely more than that

For the crepe

2 cups all-purpose flour

4 large eggs

2 1/2 cups milk to start (more as needed)

Pinch of salt

Mix ingredients together in a blender until fully incorporated. It should be the consistency of cream, NOT pancake batter. Add milk and blend more along the way if the mix thickens, which it will.

For the filling

2 lbs ricotta, preferably fresh

1 lb fresh mozzarella

1 egg

1/3 cup grated cheese (I use a blend of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino)

Pinch of nutmeg (though a couple pinches is better)

Salt and pepper to taste

Empty ricotta into a large bowl. Grate the mozzarella into the same bowl. Add all the other ingredients and mix thoroughly. If very stiff add a little milk to soften a bit.

8 Responses to “My best manicotti recipe”

  1. CLAUDIA April 25, 2020 at 11:18 am #

    You’ve inspired me in theory. Someday……

  2. Lee Atkinson April 25, 2020 at 12:55 pm #

    If only I could find fresh ricotta here in Florida..makes all the difference.
    Mr meatball. So simple, but simply delicious. Thank you 😊

  3. Sandy April 25, 2020 at 2:03 pm #

    It makes.my day to see a new post from you! I think my dinner plans for tonight have changed now, gotta go find some fresh ricotta. Thank you for the inspiration!

  4. Fred Abatemarco April 25, 2020 at 10:56 pm #

    Grazie! I wholeheartedly agree that manicotti reign in an ethereally superior realm of fatta en casa pasta. I have a question regarding your use of an egg in the filling: do you use one in ALL cheese fillings for say Lasagna, ziti al Forno, ravioli? Please tell me your, er….Aunt Ann’s thoughts on this. Auguri!

    • mistermeatball April 26, 2020 at 9:39 am #

      Hm, egg use. No, not always. Fact, I’m pretty certain you can eliminate from this recipe if you like. I’ll ask Anna her view when next we chat, but for me it’s often a judgment call on the scene.

  5. Emily Guglielmi April 26, 2020 at 9:06 pm #

    This is exactly how my mother-in-law (RIP) made them. They were delicious. She helped me make a whole pan full for a party one year and they were snapped up in 2 minutes

  6. LeAnne April 27, 2020 at 4:24 pm #

    I love this recipe and have been making it for Christmas for many years, since your earlier post with it. I was just thinking that it might be perfect for now too. Thanks!

    • mistermeatball April 27, 2020 at 4:38 pm #

      So glad to hear. (BTW the reason I posted this again is because the earlier post was somehow corrupted. It’s been deleted and replaced by this one.)

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