I loved to cook as a kid. I remember one particular cookbook that my mom had that featured recipes made with brand name products. It was at least two inches thick — and I was pretty convinced that each recipe was magic. Even if the main ingredient was Stove Top Stuffing. I guess the corporate sponsorship gave the recipes credibility in my twelve year old mind. I’m still a marketer’s dream, by the way.
One of my favorite recipes from the book was baked manicotti. And, of course, it used some sort of prepared and dried manicotti shells. San Giorgio, perhaps? It was actually a pain in the ass kind of recipe — boiling the manicotti noodles ahead of time and then attempting to stuff the little tubes with the ricotta cheese mixture. But for some reason, I always continued to think that prepared manicotti shells were the easy route. (you remember, I am a marketer’s dream, right?) I made it many, many times but then I decided it wasn’t worth the effort and I pretty much never made manicotti again.
At some point (about twenty years later), I realized that manicotti was supposed to be made with tender and thin crepes, not pasta. And I realized that it is actually a lot easier than you might imagine. Go figure — I didn’t know it all at 12. Remind me to tell you some time about the first time I attempted to make a lemon dessert involving lemon zest, which I had no idea how to accomplish. The word chunky comes to mind.
So, my new manicotti is made with whole wheat pastry flour crepes and it can be done in about an hour. And for what it’s worth, I guess it is sponsored by Cuizoo.
Manicotti with Whole Wheat Crepes
(Could easily double for a crowd)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/4 cups of water
1/4 t of salt
1. Mix whole wheat pastry flour, water, eggs, and salt with a wire whisk until completely blended. It should look like very thin pancake batter. Let rest for 10 minutes.
2. Heat a non-stick skillet with a bit of canola oil over low heat. (I very rarely use non-stick pans anymore, but this is one job that it is almost essential for — unless you have a very well seasoned cast iron pan. Make sure the non-stick coating is not flaking or scratched and use only over very low heat.) Use a pastry brush to make sure the oil is spread all over the pan.
3. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter into the skillet and tilt the pan so it spreads out completely (about a 4-6 inch circle). Let cook 1-2 minutes (or a little more depending on how hot your “low” heat is) until the surface of the crepe looks dry. Loosen with a knife or thin offset spatula and gently flip. The crepes should not get browned at all. Cook one minute more and remove to a plate.
4. Repeat with remaining batter until all crepes are cooked (this makes about 12-14 crepes). Stack crepes on the plate as they finish and cover with plastic wrap until ready to use. You can make these ahead of time and wrap tightly and store in the fridge.
15 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup of chopped flat leaf parsley (basil is nice too)
6 oz. of shredded mozzarella (or italian blend of mozzarella, parmesan, etc.)
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 t dried Oregano
1 t salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Combine all in a medium bowl.
1 jar of prepared tomato sauce, or about 2 cups of homemade sauce
Additional shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese
Chopped Parsley or Basil for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. In a 9×13 glass pan, spread about 1 cup of tomato sauce, covering the entire bottom of pan.
3. On a clean plate, take one crepe and spread about 2-3 T of ricotta filling down the middle. Roll up crepe and put it in pan, seam side down over tomato sauce.
4. Repeat with remaining crepes and filling (I fit 10 crepes in a 9×13 pretty nicely — eight going down the length of the pan and the remaining two end-to-end on the side.)
5. Cover filled crepes with about 1 cup of additional sauce. Sprinkle with additional cheese. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes, uncovered. It will start to bubble along the edges a bit. If you like (after baking) you can broil it for a few minutes to bubble and brown the cheese on the top.
6. Let stand about 10 minutes to firm up and sprinkle with chopped parsley or basil before serving.