Manicotti is one of the most popular entrees that there is. The flavors are simple. Good cheese and good tomato sauce!
Manicotti is made with crespelle instead of a pasta tube. It seems like many people that say that manicotti are supposed to be made with pasta tubes are people that do not know about crespelle. Some have become so accustomed to using pre-made pasta tubes for manicotti, that it has become a tradition in itself. Many Italians prefer pasta tubes for manicotti.
At every fine Italian restaurant that I cooked in, manicotti was made with crespelle. The crespelli shell is a simple basic savory crepe. When making crespelle for manicotti, it is important to not allow the crespelle to brown at all.
I have made tens of thousands of crespelle in my lifetime. I used 3 seasoned non-stick pans on 3 burners set to a medium low flame to rapidly turn out enough crespelle for a few days business in those Italian restaurants. You have to be a very quick cook to handle 3 crespelle pans at a time over a medium low temperature. Once you get the temperature of the pans just right, things move quickly and production is rapid. Once a the crespelle making was started, the only time that I took a break was when I needed to make more crespelle batter.
I happened to be very good at making crespelle and crepes, so that duty was always mine at an Italian restaurant. This is how you earn job security! You become so good at doing something, that when that duty pops up, you are the person the chef relies upon to get the job done.
Salsa di pomodoro is best for manicotti, but marinara sauce is also nice. Marinara is preferred by many Italian chefs for entrees that feature cheese.
Marinara Sauce Recipe:
This recipe makes 3 or 4 portions of marinara sauce!
Measure a proportion of 20% olive oil to the total amount of the tomatoes and their own juices. (For a 28 ounce can of Italian tomatoes, the amount of olive oil should about 5 1/2 ounces.)
Crush a 28 ounce can of imported Italian peeled and seeded San Marzano plum tomatoes packed their own juices by hand in a mixing bowl.
Heat 5 1/2 ounces of olive oil in a sauce pot over medium heat.
Add 8 thin sliced garlic cloves.
Let the garlic fry in the oil, till it cooks to a light golden brown color.
Immediately add the hand crushed tomatoes to the garlic and oil.
Add 10 to 12 whole fresh basil leaves.
Add sea salt and black pepper.
Constantly stir the sauce, as it comes to a gentle boil. Don not overheat this sauce!
Reduce the temperature to low heat.
Stir the oil into the sauce once every five minutes, as the sauce simmers.
Simmer the marinara for almost 45 minutes, till the tomato juices have reduced and the sauce becomes a medium tomato sauce consistency.
Add 2 tablespoons of minced Italian parsley.
Keep the sauce warm over very low heat, if it is served immediately or reheat the sauce to order.
This recipe is enough for 4 to 5 large manicotti! Never add salt or pepper to tre formaggi or the delicate "sweet" flavor of the cheese will be lost!
Place 15 ounces of ricotta cheese in a mixing bowl.
Add 3 ounces of finely grated parmesan cheese.
Add 5 ounces of grated mozzarella cheese.
Add 1 tablespoon of minced Italian parsley.
Add 1 whisked egg.
Mix the ingredients together.
Chill the tre formaggi mixture in a refrigerator.
Place 2 eggs into a mixing bowl.
Add an equal amount of milk.
Note: The weight of a large egg can vary. Most shelled large eggs weigh between 1.75 ounces and 2.75 ounces. Judge the amount of milk by volume instead of by weight! A volume match is okay and it is better than taking the time to weigh equal amounts on a scale. Cooking should not be a science!
Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
Add a small amount of flour at a time, while whisking constantly, till a thin batter is formed. The batter should be just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Heat an 8" to 10" wide non-stick saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
Brush the pan lightly with olive oil.
Pour enough crespelle batter into the pan to form a thin crepe. (1 1/2 to 2 ounces of batter.)
Tilt the pan, so the batter forms a round crepe shape.
When the thin crepe becomes firm, flip the crepe and cook the other side. (Do not brown the crepes! The crepelli should look like a pasta color.)
Set the crepe aside.
Make a lotal of 3 crespelle.
Manicotti al Tre Formaggi:
Place a mounded line of the 3 cheese filling across the middle of a crespelle. The amount of cheese needed depends on the size of the crespelle.
Roll the crepe into a manicotti tube shape.
Trim the ends, so the manicotti are the same length and the cheese is flush with the end of the tubes.
Place a little bit of marinara sauce on the bottom of a baking pan or on a casserole dish. (A small casserole dish is best!)
Set the manicotti on top of the sauce.
Bake the manicotti in a 350 degree oven till the cheese stuffing becomes warm.
Remove the baking dish from the oven.
Spoon a little bit more marinara sauce over the manicotti.
Sprinkle some grated mozzarella cheese over the manicotti.
Place the manicotti back in the oven.
Bake till the cheese melts and till the cheese becomes only slightly browned on the edges. (Overly browned cheese is a major no no! Burnt brown cheese tastes very bitter.)
Serve the manicotti in the casserole dish or use a large spatula to set the manicotti on a plate. (Be careful when picking up manicotti with a spatula. It is easy for the cheese stuffing to leak out!)
Sprinkle a little bit of fresh grated parmesan cheese over the manicotti.
Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig.
This is a simple and delicious recipe that only takes about thirty minutes to make if the tomato sauce is made ahead of time. I like using a good marinara for manicotti rather than a salsa pomodoro (tomato sauce) because the bright flavor of a marinara goes well with the cheese. That is about as much personal taste that I ever apply to cooking. Cooking to personal taste is not a trait of a good chef! In an Italian restaurant, I would only use salsa di pomodoro.
This manicotti recipe is simply delicious! Of course a fine Italian red wine is best when paired with manicotti, but while in Chicago, I had access to a liquidator of overstocked good French wine. A 2006 French Moulin A Vent Cru Du Beaujolais is perfect with manicotti. Cru Du Beaujolais is the highest classification of beaujolais. Gamay grapes are used to make this wine. Ciao Baby! ... Shawna