Every Italian food lover needs a great recipe for homemade manicotti! Make your crepes from scratch (it’s not hard!) and load them with a four-cheese and spinach filling.
Guess what? This is my first post for Food Fanatic, where I’ll be a regular contributor!
I’ll be the Italian Food Fanatic, in case my homemade manicotti with spinach didn’t give it away.
And by “Italian food,” I mean some authentic recipes, some with an Italian twist… but all of them delizioso.
Today’s homemade manicotti is a heavy hitter. This is the real deal, folks. Boxed pasta is great for everyday meals, but for authentic manicotti, you need to bust out crepes (crespelle) from scratch.
Don’t worry, though. It’s easier than you think. If you can make pancakes, you can make these crepes.
This recipe makes them thick, sturdy and pasta-like, so there’s no need to worry about flimsy crepes that tear. You’ll fill them with a delicious blend of ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, Romano and spinach — oh yes, my friends. Then, you’ll top them with Cooking with Mamma C’s Homemade Marinara Sauce (or try Pork Rib Tomato Sauce) and extra Parmesan before baking them to hot, cheesy perfection.
There are few things better in life. You’ll want to pronounce them correctly, so it’s “mah nee coh tee,” for the record.
I’ll never forget when, as a teenager, I invited my girlfriend over for dinner. She’s not Italian and had no clue what Mom was saying as she offered her some manicotti.
“Huh?” My friend was puzzled.
“Would you like some (mah nee coh tee)?” Mom repeated.
“WOULD YOU LIKE SOME MANNA CODDY?” I interjected, anxious to end the awkward moment. (#Italianproblems)
“Oh!” Now my friend understood. “Yes, I’d love some!”
Make this homemade manicotti with spinach for Easter, special occasions or a fabulous Sunday dinner. But, please, whatever you do, don’t call them “manna coddy.”
For the Crepes:
For the Filling:
- 6 extra large Eggs
- 12 ounces Cold Water
- 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 2 cups Ricotta Cheese
- 8 ounces Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
- 1/4 cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
- 1/4 cup Freshly Grated Romano Cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- 5 ounces Chopped Frozen Spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
- 6 cups Marinara Sauce
- 4 tablespoons Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese, plus extra for serving
For the crepe batter, add your eggs and water to a large mixing bowl. Beat with a mixer just until combined.
Add your flour and salt, and beat on low until the batter is smooth, with no lumps. Let the batter rest for 30-60 minutes in the refrigerator. This will help provide a better texture for your crepes.
While the batter is resting, make your filling. Add your ricotta to a medium bowl.
To shred your mozzarella, you can use a food processor or use your blender. Add the mozzarella to your ricotta.
Grate your Parmesan and Romano, if needed. (I grate chunks of cheese in my blender.) Add the grated Parmesan and Romano to your bowl, along with your black pepper.
Thaw your frozen spinach in the microwave and heat it one minute at a time, until it’s thawed. Drain your spinach in a fine-mesh strainer.
Add your thawed and drained spinach to your bowl of cheese filling and stir it until combined. Cover and refrigerate your filling until your crepes are ready to be filled.
After your crepe batter has rested for at least 30 minutes, it’s time to make your crepes. Lightly grease a 7-inch pan by spraying some oil on a paper towel and wiping your pan with it. (If you have two pans of this size, you can use both.) Heat the pan on the stove over medium heat.
Scoop out 1/4 cup of batter into a liquid measuring cup, and when your pan is hot, pour the ¼ cup of batter into the center of the pan. Gently swirl the pan, if needed, until the bottom is covered with the batter. Cook the crepe just until the top is set, which should take 1-2 minutes. Do not flip the crepe. Slide the crepe out of the pan and onto a cooling rack.
Continue cooking the rest of your crepes. When you run out of space on your cooling racks, you can transfer the cooled crepes to a plate, stacking them with a sheet of wax paper between each one.
When your crepes are cooked and cooled off, you can assemble your manicotti. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Add a layer of tomato sauce to the bottom of your baking pan. Use a 10x15 if you have one, or use two 9x13 pans.
On a cutting board or clean work surface, place a crepe with the browned side facing up. (This is so that the yellow side will show when you roll it up.) Place 1/3 cup of ricotta filling in the center of your crepe, pressing it down gently until there is a 1-inch border of crepe around it. Roll the crepe tightly into a cylinder and place it seam-side down in your baking pan.
Continue filling and rolling all your crepes, arranging them in a single layer in your baking pan(s). Ladle some sauce over your manicotti, until they are all covered. Sprinkle three tablespoons of Parmesan over the top.
Cover your pan(s) with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Serve the manicotti with extra sauce and Parmesan.
Store leftover manicotti in the refrigerator for up to five days. Store any leftover marinara separately for up to a week in the refrigerator.