Tag Archives: manicotti

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.

With friends like these…

23 Nov

The picture doesn’t exactly capture the moment, but what a moment it was.

This is my first plate from yesterday’s Thanksgiving feast, held about a mile from here, at the home of my friends Scott and Giovani. There are tasty brussels sprouts, whole roasted carrots, delicious oyster stuffing, super-smooth mashed potatoes, and a very well turned out bit of fresh turkey.

The moment is about the manicotti, though. Because they were a closely guarded secret among all of the guests who attended the elegant holiday bash.

All of them except for me.

Long story short, my friends had read the piece that I had written about my mother’s Thanksgiving manicotti. And so to honor her — a woman who they had never met, by the way — they decided to add an extra multi-step item to an already labor-intense menu.

I won’t embarrass my friends by going on here, okay. They wouldn’t want that.

Just so long as they know that I consider this moment to be an extraordinary gift. And always will.

A very Meatball Thanksgiving

13 Nov

I know. This holiday is all about the bird.

But.

Should you wish to take a page from the Meatballs’ Thanksgiving tradition, then you had best be prepared to add a pasta course to the festivities.

And not just any pasta course.

My mother (she’s the one at the far left, swigging what appears to be a pink bubbly) always made manicotti on Thanksgiving. Those are probably hers on the far right, below the turkey and a fork’s lift away from her eldest brother Joe. Uncle Joe is sitting next to his father, my grandfather, John.

There are a lot of Johns in my family. One is sitting next to my grandfather, come to think of it. I wasn’t yet born on this Thanksgiving Day, but had I been there might be three Johns at the table, not two. If you count middle names, that is. And were I seated with this particular group.

See, there are likely two or three other tables lined up that aren’t visible here, each crowded with as many people. Tight quarters considering that the apartments my grandfather’s six children lived in back then, with their own growing families, were on the small side. I can’t even tell whose apartment this holiday is taking place in because the six flats in our family’s side-by-side tenement houses all looked the same.

Anyhow, you didn’t come here looking for a history lesson. And so I’ll wish you all a very, very happy holiday and leave it at that.

And if you are inclined to make with the manicotti, here’s the recipe that I learned from watching mom. It’s from a post that I did here early this year, but repeating it now seemed appropriate.

My family prefers crepes over pasta shells. The thinner and lighter the crepe the better the manicotti, so use a blender for the mix, and keep adding milk if it thickens as you’re working. The full recipe is below.
A super hot omelette pan doused in butter is the way to a great crepe. I keep a bowl of melted butter next to the stovetop and apply it with a bristle brush before pouring the crepe mix into the pan.
To make thin crepes you must barely cover the surface of the pan with the mixture. Once the crepe is set and drying flip it over with a spatula. If your pan is properly heated this won’t take very long at all.
Here’s what the cooked side should look like. After flipping the crepe it only takes maybe 30 seconds more to finish the other side.
This is a pretty traditional filling, made with ricotta and fresh mozzarella.
A simple fold from one side and then the other does the trick.
Lay a light dose of tomato sauce in a baking pan, line the manicotti side by side, then add some more sauce on top. Cover in aluminum foil and throw into the oven, preheated to about 375 degrees F. Remove the foil after around 25 minutes and continue baking.
After another 15 or 20 minutes the manicotti should be done.
This being Thanksgiving, one or two of these babies apiece should do the trick.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Manicotti
Recipe
Makes about 24
For the crepe
2 cups flour
4 extra large eggs
2 1/4 cups milk (more as needed)
Pinch of salt
Mix together in a blender until fully incorporated. 
For the filling
2 lbs ricotta
1 lb fresh mozzarella
1 extra large egg
1/3 cup grated Romano cheese
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl add the ricotta. With a wide-cut grater grate the mozzarella over the ricotta. Add all the other ingredients and mix thoroughly.