I have been saving this recipe for a while now. It’s a pretty legendary family recipe, so it feels like it merits a worthy occasion. One came upon me almost spontaneously this weekend: the combination of a snowy winter night, the start of the year and a new semester, and a happy confluence of dear friends, old and new, suddenly somehow made it the right time for manicotti. With a few bottles of Chianti, a simple salad and some hot rolls, this makes a perfect, deceptively simple dinner you can throw together as a prelude to a night out.
Manicotti for a Winter’s Eve
You will need:
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2/3 cup milk and 2/3 cup water (I had soy milk and buttermilk and opted to substitute buttermilk instead, which worked out great)
1 cup flour
For the filling:
1 lb. ricotta
8 oz. shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 tsp. parsley, chopped finely
Pinches of salt and pepper
1-3 cups of tomato sauce, depending on the size of your dish (My grandmother suggests Bertolli Basil sauce as the preferred sauce of America’s Test Kitchen, and after using it a few times I concur…unless you want to make your own tomato sauce from scratch – which is fun, but completely unnecessary)
First make your crepes: beat the eggs, milk, water, and butter, and gradually add in the flour. Let batter sit, refrigerated, for an hour or so, and then make crepes in a pan or griddle brushed with butter (I ended up needing about 8-10 for the dish) and set aside (you can do this the day before; stacked, covered, crepes can keep in the fridge for about 24 hours).
Mix together the ricotta, eggs, half the mozzarella, half the parmesan, and the parsley. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Place about a tablespoon of the filling on each crepe, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper, and roll tightly.
In a large baking dish, cover the bottom with a layer of tomato sauce and stack the filled crepes, seam side down, on top. Add enough sauce to cover the crepes and fill in the gaps between them, and add any leftover ricotta filling you might have. Top with the rest of the cheeses. Cover lightly with foil.
Bake for at least 40 minutes or until the cheese on top is starting to brown. Serve as you would a lasagna.
Variants include adding a bit of cilantro, adding spices to your sauce, or including mushrooms and meatballs in the mix.
A special thanks & shout-out to my incredible grandmother Alice (who is probably reading about this on her iPad right now) for this amazing recipe. I know it will be a favorite of mine for many years to come!