FNK_CrepeStyleCheeseManicotti_H
Recipe courtesy of Alexis Pisciotta for Food Network Kitchen

Homemade Crepe-Style Manicotti

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Contrary to popular opinion, traditional versions of manicotti ("sleeves" in Italian) are made using fresh pasta sheets or crepes, which gives the dish its namesake drape, unlike when made with the store-bought tubes. Thanks to their high egg content, the crepes here are a sort of hybrid of the two in that they resemble fresh pasta but are super light and tender. They are also simple to make and to stuff (no more cracked pasta shells!). Resist the urge to cook the crepes in a nonstick skillet, which can cause scorching; a stainless steel pan is your best bet, allowing them to steam without the slightest sticking. One update to some original versions is that the filling is bound with mozzarella rather than an egg to keep the manicotti from being too firm. You can make the crepes and even assemble the whole dish ahead of time and then bake it just before serving.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 2 hr 35 min
  • Active: 1 hr 30 min
  • Yield: 6 to 8 servings
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Ingredients

Sauce:

Crepes:

Filling:

Directions

  1. For the sauce: Combine the canned tomatoes in a large bowl, reserving the cans. Crush the tomatoes with your hands. Put the olive oil and garlic in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the garlic is translucent and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until warm, about 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes. Fill each reserved can halfway with water, swish to collect any remaining tomato juice and add to the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 35 minutes. Stir in the whole basil sprigs, season with salt and black pepper and remove from the heat. You should have about 6 cups of sauce.
  2. For the crepes: Puree the eggs, flour, milk, water and 1 teaspoon salt in a blender until smooth. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  3. Heat an 8-inch stainless steel skillet over medium-low heat (see Cook's Note). Pour 1/4 cup of the batter off center into the pan with a ladle or measuring cup, then swirl to coat the bottom. Cook until the crepe looks dry and pulls away from the sides of the pan, 1 to 2 minutes per side. The crepes should not take on any color. (It usually takes one or two tries to get it right so adjust the heat as needed.) Transfer the crepe to a plate. Continue cooking the crepes with the remaining batter, stacking them on the plate when they are done. You should have about 16 good crepes. At this point the crepes can be wrapped tightly and stored on the plate in the refrigerator up to 1 day.
  4. For the filling: Combine the ricotta, mozzarella, Parmigiano, Pecorino, parsley, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper.
  5. To assemble, preheat the oven to 375F. Cover the bottom of each of two 9-by-13-inch baking dishes with 1 1/2 cups sauce (it is fine to also add the basil sprigs to the bottom of the dish if you like). Divide the filling among the crepes (about 1/4 cup each) and spread it in a line down the center of each crepe. Roll the crepes into cylinders (leaving the ends open) and fit them snugly in the baking dishes, seam-side down. Spoon 1 cup of the sauce in a line down the center of each baking dish (it will only partially cover the crepes). The manicotti can be assembled up to this point, covered tightly and refrigerated overnight; remove the covering before baking.
  6. Cover the baking dishes with lids or aluminum foil and bake until the filling is heated through and the sauce is bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the cover, sprinkle with some Parmigiano and continue to bake until the cheese is melted and the edges are light brown, 5 to 10 minutes more. Heat the remaining sauce in a small saucepan or the microwave and serve alongside the manicotti.

Cook’s Note

D.O.P stands for Denominazione d'Origine Protetta (loosely, protected designation of origin). It’s a designation given to tomatoes, cheeses, oils and other products that are from a particular region in Italy and adhere to strict guidelines when growing and processing. D.O.P. tomatoes tend to be more consistent in quality and flavor and many brands of D.O.P tomatoes are sold in the United States. While these are called crepes, because of the high egg content in the batter, they resemble pasta more. It’s important they have no color on them. Magically, they don’t stick to the stainless skillet, they kind of cook slowly and almost steam, so no need to grease the pan. Just make sure your pan is heated. You can cook them in a nonstick skillet too, but they don’t come out as good. The material of the skillet tends to scorch the eggs giving it a weird smell and flavor, and the dark nonstick imparts color before the crepes are actually cooked.