A lot of American cooks, even the ones in Italian restaurants don't know real manicotti. Go to almost any Italian restaurant in this country and you will be served pasta tubes stuffed with ricotta cheese. This is not real manicotti, the real deal is a savory crepe made with semolina flour. But like so many European dishes they are brought to America only to be changed so that they are easier to prepare. Just another reason to do things yourself.
Making real manicotti is not difficult and is especially easy if you use a nonstick pan. I am for the most part anti-nonstick but there are some applications where it is useful, making crepes is one of them. We have an iron crepe pan and it works great however it is too small for making manicotti the size that I want. I like them on the larger side. If you have a crepe pan and you are OK with smaller manicotti then use that. If not use nonstick and feel no guilt for it.
When I make manicotti I make homemade paneer cheese. Paneer cheese is an Indian recipe but it is basically whole milk ricotta in contrast to the ricotta cheese we get in this country which is made from whey. Paneer is very easy to make and it is firm, holds together well and lends a homemade authentic taste to this dish but they will still be very good if you use store bought ricotta cheese.
WHOLE MILK RICOTTA
- 1 gallon whole milk
- juice from one lemmon
- 1 egg
- chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
Set this mixture aside and then make the crepes.
*NOTE: You will be left with quite a bit of whey after you remove the curds. You dont have to throw this away. It makes for a very healthy beverage. You can make it cold and drink it as is or you can add some sugar to sweeten it. If you add some choclate syrup and mix it well you will have homemade YooHoo. I love YooHoo.
INGREDIENTS: For 8-10 crepes
- 2 cup semolina flour
- 1/2 cup unbleached flour
- 3 eggs
- 2-1/2 cup milk (approx.)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
To make the crepes set the bowl of batter near the stove with a ladle. Also set out another small bowl with a small amount of oil in it. Take a folded up paper towel and place it into the small bowl of oil. This is what you will use to grease the pan before and after making each crepe. Put the pan on a burner over medium heat and let it get good and hot. Once hot take the oiled paper towel and wipe the entire surface of the hot pan. Then return it to the burner for a moment.
No here is the trick, Take the pan off the burner in one hand and take a ladle full of batter in the other. Starting from the center gradually add the batter to the pan while turning and leaning the pan to spread the batter, continue until the entire surface of the pan is covered with a thin layer of batter. Return the ladle and any excess batter to the bowl.
Once the top of the crepe looks dry and the edges are beginning to pull away from the pan the crepe is done. Carefully slide the tip of a butter knife under the edge of the crepe and lift, then use your finger to lift it out of the pan and place it on a nearby plate to cool. Wipe the pan with the paper towel of oil again and make another crepe. Stack the crepes up and repeat until all of the batter is used up.
Now give a quick clean up and set up to stuff the crepes. Place your stack of crepes near the bowl of ricotta filling.
Set out one of the crepes and place a few tablespoons of the ricotta filling just off center.
Then roll the crepe over top of the filling.
Cut off the excess crepe from either side.
After they are placed into the casserole and the dish is filled ladle sauce onto the top. Then cover the top with a mixture of grated Parmesan and mozzarella cheese. Place into an preheated 350 degrees oven and bake until the cheese is completely melted on top and beginning to brown and blister.
Finally, carefully place a spatula under one manicotti at a time and slide them off onto a plate. Ladle some sauce on top, garnish with some fresh chopped flat leaf parsley and serve,
I will be posting my world famous authentic Italian tomato gravy recipe tomorrow so please check back. I guaranty you will love this sauce.
Yep, that is the real manicotti.