This post is dedicated to the assembly of the Manicotti which has always been my Mother’s favorite pasta. The previous two posts give you some information for the components of the Manicotti. This one will give the rest of the information.
What about the gravy? You can use a meat gravy or a meatless gravy (Marinara) to make the Manicotti. It is delicious either way. This time I used meatless gravy.
Do you call it gravy or pasta sauce or something else? My family always called it gravy. When I refer to gravy as anything else, it’s simply to ensure that I’m being clear.
Mix the ricotta and the grated cheese.
Prepare the pan with the gravy layer.
Start filling the crepe and folding.
Start placing the first row of filled crepes in the pan.
First layer of filled crepes.
First completed layer with the gravy, then the sprinkled grated cheese and then the mozzarella strips. Try not to eat too many of the mozzarella strips as you work. This is definitely difficult when using fresh homemade mozzarella.
Second layer of filled crepes.
Second completed layer with the gravy, then the sprinkled grated cheese and then the mozzarella strips. Ready for the oven.
Ready to eat.
- 3 lb. container ricotta cheese (I used the Biazzo brand but I also like Polly –O; if you have a local Italian deli that makes their own ricotta, that would make this recipe that much more tasty but it’s a pricy option)
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup grated cheese (I use Pecorino Romano); plus more for sprinkling on the layers
- 2 – 4 tablespoons milk or more, as necessary (I didn’t need any)
- 1/2 – 1 recipe meatless gravy (Marinara sauce; can also substitute meat gravy)
- 1 recipe crepes
- 1 – 1 1/2 lbs. mozzarella cut into thin strips (Biazzo or Bellgioso brands are good; I used my husband’s homemade mozzarella; if you have a local Italian deli, you can also use their fresh mozzarella)
Step 1: In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, grated cheese and some milk, if the mixture seems too dry and difficult to work with (use a little milk as possible – you don’t want this to become soupy). The easiest way to get all the ricotta out of the container is to invert it into the bowl and squeeze the sides until it slides out in one whole piece. If that doesn’t work, use a silicone spatula to extract the ricotta while scraping the sides of the container.
Step 2: To set up for assembly: Position a half-size aluminum steam table tray in front of you. Place the gravy in a large bowl further away from you in front of you and on the far side of the empty aluminum tray. Place the crepes the left side of the tray and the ricotta mixture on the right side of the tray.
Step 3: Using a wooden spoon, spoon some gravy into the aluminum pan (several tablespoons) and spread a thin layer across the bottom of the pan. Take a crepe in your left hand and spoon approximately 2 to 4 tablespoons across the center of the crepe in a wide strip from left to right. Fold the edge of the crepe closest to you across the strip of ricotta and then fold the edge of the crepe farthest from you across the first fold ensuring the crepe is taut and overlaps the first fold. Place the filled crepe folded side down in the lower left corner of the pan. Repeat for the next four crepes, placing each filled crepe next to the prior crepe so you have one row of 5 filled crepes. Create another row of five filled crepes on the right side of the pan.
Step 4: With a wooden spoon, spoon gravy onto the filled crepes (several tablespoons) and spread a thin layer across them. Sprinkle grated cheese across the top of the gravy layer. Place mozzarella pieces across each Manicotti. I place three small pieces on each.
Step 5: Repeat the above steps to create a second layer. This will give you twenty in one pan. Cover the pan very loosely with aluminum foil, so that when it cooks the mozzarella doesn’t stick to the aluminum foil. The pan will be heavy and you’ll need to support it from the bottom due to the weight. You can store this in the refrigerator for a day or so. This way you only have to bake it on the day you want to serve it. You can also bake these in one layer by using a second pan.
Step 6: You’ll likely have some extra crepes, so you’ll need to use another smaller pan for the remaining 1 to 5 crepes.
Step 7: Place the filled Manicotti trays in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake covered for about an hour. Remove the aluminum foil cover and bake for another 20 minutes to crisp up the mozzarella and ensure the Manicotti are heated through.
Step 8: Let the Manicotti rest for 10 to 20 minutes before serving. The first Manicotti served may be difficult to extract from the pan. I usually serve two per person, since they are double stacked. If someone wants only one, I cut the Manicotti in half, so they get two halves instead on one whole one.
Options: You can add some optional items to the ricotta filling to change it up a bit. For example, you could add a couple of tablespoons of parsley flakes or a 10 ounce defrosted and drained chopped spinach. I like these options but, since I had children to serve, I didn’t use them the last time I made these because children don’t usually like to eat green leaves mixed in with their food.
To store the Manicotti: Place in the refrigerator for a day or two before baking. For longer term storage place plastic wrap beneath the aluminum foil and then place the entire tray in a supermarket shopping bag and then another shopping bag with the opening opposite from the first bag before placing in the freezer. Defrost in the refrigerator completely before baking.
My family recipe.
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