Growing up Nanny made homemade, manicotti, ravioli, cavatelli and tagliolini. She made them all by rolling out the dough by hand. I remember when she made the manicotti and ravioli it seemed like it would take forever before we would start cutting (my favorite part because I could help). Nanny always said it had to be thin enough for you to see through it. In the past few years I have gained more knowlege about cooking and realized that what Nanny made were not really manicotti but cannelloni. Manicotti are crepes made from a very thin batter and cooked in a pan on the stove. Since I’m baking challenged and am not very good with a rolling pin this seemed like something I could do. I never thought I would be able to say I made homemade Manicotti but I did it for Thanksgiving! It was surprisingly easy once you get the hang of it. Once you start making a few, you will get the hang of how much batter to use. It all depends on your ladle. You want the crepes to be very thin and delicate. Once you get that part down you’re golden!
I used a recipe for the crepes from a cookbook I bought years ago when I worked at Barnes and Noble. It’s called Rao’s Cookbook: Over 100 Years of Italian Home Cooking by Frank Pellegrino. This recipe can be found on page 55. I only used the recipe for the crepe part. For the filling, I just went with what I know.
I made some small changes to the recipe. I used an 8 inch nonstick omelette pan and used much less batter than stated in the recipe. Instead of oil I used cooking spray and cooked them slighly longer than 30 seconds (at least it felt like longer). I got over 20 crepes which was probably because my pan was smaller than a crepe pan but the size was perfect in my opinion.
2 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Approx. 2 tbsp vegetable oil (I used cooking spray)
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. When well combined, whisk in flour until smooth. Set aside to rest for about 1 hour.
2. Heat a nonstick crepe pan over medium-high heat. Lightly brush it with vegetable oil and return to heat. Pour a little less than 1/2 cup of batter into the pan, swirling to cover the bottom evenly. Cook for about 30 seconds or until it is just set and the bottom is lightly browned. Turn the crepe over carefully with a spatula or a fork. Cook for an additional 15 seconds or until set. Remove from pan and place on a piece of waxed paper. Continue cooking and stacking crepes until you have at least 14. The extra 2 will allow for breakage.
I don’t measure the cheese for the filling. I just taste it before I add the egg and add more cheese as needed.
2 lb container of part skim Ricotta
1 lb part skim Mozzarella block (of course fresh mozzarella can be used)
Locatelli Romano cheese approx 1 cup
1 large egg
salt and pepper to taste
Marinara sauce, prepared (I used 2-28 oz cans crushed tomatoes and had enough for two batches of crepes)
1. Mix ricotta, romano cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Taste. Adjust seasoning according to taste and then stir in one egg.
2. Slice mozzarella into matchstick size pieces.
3. Lay crepe on flat surface. Place about 1 tablespoon of ricotta (more if larger crepe) into the center of crepe and spread out to edges. Add mozzarella to center. (If you cut them into long sticks which I did with second batch you only need one stick). Fold one edge halfway over and then fold the other side to form a packet. Don’t roll them or they will be too thick. They should be sort of flat.
4. Spread a layer of sauce onto a baking pan. Lay manicotti side by side and arrange manicotti until the pan is filled. Add another layer of sauce on top and sprinkle with romano cheese.
5. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes and sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted.
Manicotti can be frozen two way. Arrange rolled crepes on a wax paper lined pan and freeze for about 1 hour. Take out of freezer and put the frozen manicotti in a freezer bag between layers of wax paper. Store in freezer until ready to use. You could also prepare with sauce and place the whole pan in the freezer if you have the space. Let defrost and then bake when ready.