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Joe

REC: Manicotti

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Joined: Dec 14, 2005

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Posted to Thread #43 at 4:41 pm on Sep 19, 2006

My family often has this for Christmas, and my sister, SIL and I get together in fall and make tons of it because it freezes so well. We use crepes, but I have also used squares of fresh pasta or pre-made manicotti tubes, both boiled briefly. This recipe fills 4 pans, and I've never made a small amount, but you could easily cut the recipe in half. Or, to make just one pan, make 1/4 recipe each of the sauce and filling, and 1/3 recipe of the crepe batter--it divides more easily in thirds, and you'll have extra batter for mishaps.

This started as my great-aunt's recipe, but the filling is out of The Joy of Cooking. The rosemary in the sauce was a happy accident that I've repeated ever since.

MANICOTTI

Makes 40 manicotti; serves 20

CREPE BATTER:

Mix in a blender, in 2 or 3 batches:

18 eggs
3 cups milk
Big pinch of salt
1-2/3 cups flour

Pour into a bowl. Set aside in the refrigerator to rest for a couple of hours, so the flour will absorb the liquid.

TOMATO SAUCE:

1/4 cup olive oil
4 Tbs. butter, in pieces
3 cups finely chopped onion
8 large cloves garlic, minced
4 28-oz. cans plum tomatoes, pureed in a blender
2 8-oz. cans tomato sauce
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
About 1/2 cup water
1 Tbs. minced fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp. dried, crumbled)
3 Tbs. (or more) minced fresh basil, (or 1 Tbs. dried, crumbled.) Mince just before adding so it won't darken
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until surface is rippled. Add butter and swirl until melted. Add onion and saute until soft but not brown, 5-8 minutes. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and paste, and seasonings. Rinse out the cans with a little water and add to the pot. Bring to a boil, stirring. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 30-40 minutes. Let cool.

CHEESE FILLING

2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. flour
1 cup milk
Salt, pepper and nutmeg

7 cups (4 lb.) whole milk ricotta cheese
4 cups freshly grated Parmesan
2 cups coarsely grated whole milk mozzarella
4 beaten eggs

Make a white sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook over low heat, stirring, for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time. Bring to a boil, stirring. Turn heat to low and simmer, stirring, for 10 minutes. Season generously with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and let cool.

Mash the ricotta into the white sauce. Add the other cheeses. Season to taste with more salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in the eggs.

ASSEMBLY:

Melt a few Tbs. butter. Grate a little more mozzarella and/or Paresan for topping. Spread a thin layer of sauce in each of four 9" x 13" baking dishes.

Brush an 9-inch crepe pan, non-stick skillet or cast iron skillet with butter. Heat over medium heat. Stir up the crepe batter (the flour settles to the bottom) and add a scant 1/4 cup to the hot pan, tilting the pan as you do so to cover the bottom evenly. Place over heat and cook until batter is set and edges are beginning to brown. Don't flip. Loosen edges with a spatula and slide out, soft side up, onto your work surface. (The first crepe is usually a dud. Try again.)

Brush the pan with more butter and make the next crepe. While it cooks spread about 1/4 cup filling in a sausage shape across the bottom of the first crepe and roll it up like an enchilada. Place seam side down in the pan. Continue making and filling crepes, stirring up the batter often and brushing the pan with butter as necessary, until the filling is used up. You should fill all four pans. (This goes very fast with one person making crepes in two pans and two others filling and rolling.) Top each manicotti with a thin layer of sauce and a spinkling of cheese.

You can wrap and freeze the manicotti at this point, and freeze the remaining sauce separately. Thaw completely before baking.

Preheat the oven to 350*F. Bake manicotti until puffed and lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Let sit a few minutes. Reheat sauce. Serve with sauce and grated Parmesan.

All you need for a satisfying meal is a green salad and good bread. Grilled or sauteed Italian sausages are a nice addition.



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