Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Homemade Cheese Manicotti

This is an act of love, that's what Holly told me when she gave this recipe to me a dozen years ago. It's what my daughter asks for on special occasions because she loves it and only then because she knows how much work goes into it. Don't let me scare you, it is very time consuming but simple and well worth it. So create this act of love for your family tonight.

Start with a simple marinara sauce.

1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh basil or oregano, minced
2 large cans diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
In a large sauce pan, saute the onion in the oil.
 Add the garlic, stir, then add the tomatoes, and paste.
 Add the basil or oregano.
 Taste, add salt, taste again. Mmmm.
Let this simmer while you make the crepes and mix the cheese.

Cheese Mixture:
32 oz. whole milk ricotta
2 eggs
1 lb. shredded mozzarella
1 1/2 cups parmesan
3 tablespoons minced parsley
This is easy--just mix all this in a bowl.

Crepe mixture:
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup flour
pinch salt
Whisk together.
 Now from here it's just "set up and run". 
I used a 15x10 inch baking dish, a little larger would be good but definitely not smaller. Spread about 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of the pan, leave the rest to continue simmering and set the baking dish where you can reach it with the manicotti rolls.
Place a piece of waxed paper or foil on the counter to catch the crepes when you remove them from the pan. I use an 8" stainless steel skillet as my crepe pan, I have a small kitchen and can't store a lot of specialty cookware. I don't use non stick pans because there has been so much written on the toxicity of the coating.

Turn the burner on to medium high, using a good cooking spray, coat the skillet well. Allow the pan to heat but not scorch the spray. Pour an 1/8 cup of the crepe batter into the hot pan, swirling it around to coat the bottom of the pan.
Place back on burner. When the edges start to come off the sides lift the crepe gently and flip it over.
Excuse my blurry photo, you try flipping a hot crepe and photographing it at the same time.

Now as soon as the one is out of the pan start another. While the second one cooks, put 3 tablespoons of filling into the first one,
then roll it up.
This is what it looks like in just a short time.
Then pour the rest of the sauce over the top, spreading to cover all.
Cover this with foil and bake for 40 minutes at 350F. Remove foil, sprinkle with 2 cups shredded mozzarella and continue baking for another 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown.

Remove from oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Serve with green salad just because it's good for you and it adds splendid color to the plate.

The sad part here is that when it came out of the oven, the aroma was so divine that we all forgot to photograph the finished product. Sorry. It didn't last long either but if you do have leftovers this is even better the next day!