Manicotti are the Italian version of crepes filled with creamy ricotta. The batter comes together quickly in the blender and fresh ricotta is worth seeking out, though making it yourself is quite easy (I even included the recipe). A simple, yet very satisfying meal indeed and ready in about an hour from start to finish. —Jennifer Perillo
Test Kitchen Notes
A truly unique take on baked pasta, this recipe requires a little faith, but not all that much work considering the results. If you have a well-seasoned crepe pan, this is the perfect excuse to put it to work. You just whiz the batter up in a blender, and then all you need to do is crank out 10 or so perfect crepes to roll around a simple mixture of ricotta, eggs, parsley and parmesan. Jennifer Perillo provides a recipe for fresh ricotta, but if you’re pressed for time a good store-bought ricotta is just fine. Don't skimp on this or on the marinara sauce -- you'll be doing these delicate, creamy manicotti (and yourself) a huge disservice. - A&M —The Editors
FOR THE PASTA
whole milk, plus more as needed to thin the batter
fresh chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
grated Parmesan cheese
CREAMY HOMEMADE RICOTTA
In This Recipe
Add the pasta ingredients to the bowl of a blender. Blend, adding more milk one teaspoon at a time, until batter is a thin, almost runny consistency. Heat a nonstick 8-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Brush pan lightly with oil, if needed (see note). Hold pan at an angle, and swirl pan as you pour in enough batter to coat bottom of skillet. Cook 30 to 45 seconds, flip and cook for 15 more seconds. And don’t forget, the first one or two might end up being sacrificial until you get the hang of swirling the pan.Transfer to a flat dish or tray. Repeat with remaining batter. You should have 8 to 10 "shells" by the end. Note: I decided to buy a skillet exclusively for making manicotti and crepes, so it wipes clean with a cloth to preserve the coating, eliminating the need to grease the pan.
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spread ½ cup of marinara sauce into the bottom of a 9-inch by 13-inch casserole dish. Combine all the filling ingredients in a medium bowl (see ricotta recipe below if making from scratch); mix well. Lay pasta crepes on a flat surface and spoon an event amount of filling in a long strip down the center of each one. Roll crepes closed, and place seam-side down into the casserole dish. Evenly pour remaining sauce over filled crepes. Sprinkle remaining grated cheese over top and bake 20 minutes, until golden and bubbly. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and serve immediately.
TO MAKE THE RICOTTA: Add ingredients to a 4-quart pot. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Meanwhile, line a sieve or fine mesh strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth and place it over a deep bowl or pot.
Once curds begin to separate from the whey (liquid temperature will be between 175º and 200º), remove from heat. Gently spoon or ladle the curds into the cheesecloth-lined strainer. You may need to gently gather the cheesecloth at the top to help the curds drain.
Let curds sit in cheesecloth to drain liquid 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how creamy you'd like your ricotta. Store in refrigerator up to two days.
Jennifer Perillo is the Consulting Food Editor at Working Mother magazine, and a regular a contributor to Relish Magazine and FoodNetwork.com. She shares stories about food, family and life at her blog In Jennie's Kitchen and in her debut cookbook, Homemade with Love: Simple Scratch Cooking from In Jennie's Kitchen (Running Press 2013).