Every part of this great dish is made from scratch but don’t be put off by the number of steps. While it may be a bit ambitious for a rushed weeknight, it is perfect for when you have a bit more time or to make on the weekend and freeze for later in the week.
The “noodles” for this manicotti dish are made like crepes but taste very much like pasta, when cooked. The sauce is made up quickly starting with a can of good quality tomatoes (or you can substitute your favourite jarred marinara sauce).
Manicotti is a fabulous dish that is family-friendly but also nice enough for company. You can make also make all of it ahead and refrigerate or freeze and cook later.
Manicotti with Homemade Crepe Pasta Noodles
Summary: This is a bit more work that packaged noodles, but so worth it (and really quite easy, actually).
- Tomato Sauce:
- 1 28-oz can good quality diced tomatoes
- Olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup onion, chopped
- 5 or 6 whole leaves of fresh basil (or 1 tsp. dried)
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- Salt and pepper, season to taste
- Manicotti Filling:
- 1 2-cup (500ml) carton of Part-skim Ricotta cheese
- 1/2 lb. part-skim Mozzarella cheese (or try fresh mozzarella or asiago), grated or cubed
- 1/2-3/4 cup Romano or Parmesan cheese, grated
- 3-4 cups fresh baby spinach, steamed (see directions below)
- 1 large egg
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Crepe Pasta Noodles
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- For cooking: 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil or cooking spray
- Fresh, chopped parsley for garnish
- Prepare the crepe noodle batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk until thoroughly combine. Whisk in the flour until smooth. Set aside to rest at room temperature while you prepare the sauce and filling.
- Prepare the tomato sauce: In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat a bit of of olive oil. Add onions and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add can of tomatoes, Parmesan and spices. Season to taste. Reduce heat to low and simmer while proceeding with the rest of the dish.
- Prepare the filling:Place spinach in a microwave-safe bowl with a 1/4 cup of water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for about 2 minutes, or until spinach is softened. Let cool until cool enough to handle. Squeeze spinach to dry and place in a medium bowl. Mix in ricotta, mozzarella, romano cheese, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning according to taste and then stir in the egg. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
- Cook the crepes: Heat a nonstick crepe or frying pan over medium-high heat. Lightly brush it with vegetable oil and return to heat. Pour about 1/3 cup of the 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 plate. Continue cooking and stacking crepes on the plate until you have at least 8.
- Make the Manicotti: Lay one crepe on a flat surface. Place about 1/8th of the ricotta filling mixture into the centre of crepe and spread out to edges. 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).
- Spread a layer of the tomato sauce onto the bottom of a shallow baking dish (around 9×13″ or so). Lay the manicotti side by side and arrange manicotti until the pan is filled. Add another layer of sauce on top and sprinkle with romano cheese and/or additional grated mozzarella. Sprinkle with fresh, chopped parsley.
- Bake at 350° F. for 25-30 minutes and sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted.
- To freeze: Prepare the entire dish in the pan and freeze it pan and all. Defrost then bake when ready. (If you don’t want to freeze in the pan, freeze the sauce in a freezer bag and then take the rolled crepes, place them on a baking sheet in the freezer for about an hour and then transfer them to a separate freezer bag.)
Prep time: 45 min | Cook time: 30 min | Total time: 1 hour 15 min
Number of servings (yield): 6