Friday, June 12, 2009

Baked Manicotti, Tomato Sauce & Meatballs

When my husband was alive, he worked for a small printing company south of Boston. Any number of interesting political, entrepreneurial, business owners, the scandalous and the saintly, would cross his threshold for printing needs. One of the nicest folks were the Dragone ricotta and mozzarella cheese folks. In the process of order taking, my husband learned they had a booklet of recipes using their products, and for a discount on their printing services, he obtained the booklet for me (after mentally inflating the price by ten percent and then offering them a ten percent discount; I leave it to you to decide if he were scandalous or saintly). It has been this booklet that I have referred to for some of the best authentic Italian cooking that I know.

To start, I do not buy the manicotti tubes; I cannot figure out how to stuff them neatly without the tubes splitting down the side or having big gaping holes where the cheese was not tamped in far enough. Thankfully, Dragone did include a crepe batter recipe, which works like a charm and gives me the added satisfaction of presenting something homemade.

Crepes for Manicotti

1 cup flour
1 cup milk (or more as needed to achieve a thin-pancake batter consistency)
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
(each mixture makes 8-9 manicotti shells)

Stir milk gradually with flour until smooth Add, stirring constantly, the beaten egg to which the salt has been added. For each shell, brush a preheated 6-inch frying pan with olive oil, and pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan, tilting back and forth so that it spreads evenly.

When set on one side, turn and let the other side set. Slide off pan onto a clean work surface or dish and repeat until batter is used. (I separate the crepes with a piece of waxed paper to prevent them from sticking to each other).

Let cook slightly, then place 2 tablespoons of filling in the center of each crepe, (I usually make a cheese "log" as I like a lot of cheese) bringing the sides over so that they overlap the filling. Arrange side by side in a baking dish, cover with tomato sauce and sprinkle with grated Romano or Parmesan cheese.

Manicotti Filling

1 pound ricotta
2 eggs
1/2 pound mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
salt and pepper to taste (taste the mixture before adding the salt; the cheese is already salty)
(you can also add 1/4 pound chipped Italian ham)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mixing well to combine. (Yes, I am still brand loyal to Dragone after all these years.)

Tomato Sauce

Everyone has their favorite; this is my go-to tomato sauce for just about everything that needs a tomato sauce. If I were to make a cacciatore, I would start with this sauce and add peppers and larger hunks of onion. For Spanish rice, add the necessary spices, black olives, etc. and add it to the rice. For a meat sauce, add 1/2 pound each ground hamburg and Italian sausage (casing removed).

3 tablespoons olive oil (a couple of good swirls)
1 small onion chopped (I like onion, I add 2)
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon parsley
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 large can Italian tomatoes
1 can (6 ounces tomato paste)
1 small carrot grated (to add natural sweetness and a well-disguised veggie!)
salt to taste (start with 1/2 teaspoon and adjust)

Heat oil oil in sauce pan, add onion, garlic and spices. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent but not browned.

Add remaining ingredients and simmer gently for about 45 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Tomatoes can be a little acidic, so you may need to add a pinch more sugar. If the sauce seems too thick while it is simmering, add 1/4 cup of hot water.


I found this meatball recipe on Recipezaar and they are just about perfect. I never fry my meatballs, opting to bake them in the oven when I bake my manicotti or lasagna. I think they hold up much better; I just serve them on the side or add them to my tomato sauce, depending on what I'm doing. I've shared this recipe with a couple of friends and we all agree, these are mighty fine.

They make a terrific addition to a meatball sub. Catch my next post.


  1. I love the idea of these inside crepes instead of noodles. My family thinks anything inside of a crepe is gourmet food.

    PS Your husband sounds like he was a shrewd business man if you ask me...

  2. This looks like one fabulous meal. I make my manicotti with a crepe like batter also.

  3. We love crepes, but I have tried them for manicotti. I definitely am going to give it a try!

  4. Oh goodness, these look wonderful! I have never attempted to make crepes before because I've heard they are very tricky. What a great idea to make them instead of trying to stuffed those darn shells!

  5. Looks great. Very interesting using crepe instead of noodles. Yum!

  6. I'm also a crepe person. Once they've been tried it's hard to use the tubes again. I love this recipe. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  7. I love manicotti and crepe perfect together. Katy thanks for sharing your great idea.

  8. Katy, these look wonderful! I love the sheer lightness of using the crepes instead of those pasta tubes. My Mom's friend taught me how to make those crepes for manicotti as a young teenager, and they been made that way ever since. ;-)

    And... meatballs in the oven, so much easier ;-)

  9. I love the crepe version of your manicotti. This looks so decadent Katy.

  10. Great idea to use crepes! Looks delish as always. :)

  11. That is a great idea,katy and it look yummy too!!!

  12. I once saw somebody else use crepes as the cool! These sound absolutely perfect..I definitely NEED to try this! :D

  13. Once you try the crepes (and get the knack of making them) they are much better than the manicotti tubes that you can buy.

    Heidi, crepes are not so difficult, truly. It does take a little bit to get the knack of them, and it's not unusual to have to toss away the first couple until the pan reaches the right temperature and the amount of oil is right (only the lightest coating, and I use a nonstick pan). After that, pour 1/4 cup into the center of your 6" pan, swirl to even out the batter, let it set. Either use a very wide spatula, a pair of wooden tongs, your asbestos fingers, or slide out onto a plate, and turn to set the other side. They go very fast once you get going on them.

    You can do it!

  14. Wow! This was a labor of love. It turned out beautifully.

  15. Love the crepe idea and all looks delicious. My Italian aunts used Italian recipes from food booklets for years - dating back to the 40's. There is some treasure to be found there.

  16. I am so impressed you make your own manicotti crepes... what a great idea! I also really like the idea of serving meatballs on the side with a dish like this. This is definitely going on my 'to do' list! :)

    By the way-- how cute that your husband thought to get the booklet for you!

  17. Katy, I want to come to your house to eat! What a fabulous meal... and you make crepes!YUM!
    I have trouble with those pasta tubes also, so I use the shell shaped ones.

  18. This looks yummy! I can't wait to give them a try!

  19. I love manicotti. It was my favorite dish growing up and I still love it today. I have never made the home made crepes but I want to sometime. Yours looks great Katy and so do the meatballs!! Great meal....

  20. Looks so yummy! I wish my husband likes pasta more! I would definitely make this. Maybe I will just myself some!

  21. What a great idea to make them with crepes. They sound even better than with pasta! An easy way to fill the tubes is to put your filling into a pastry bag or even a large plastic ziploc type bag and pipe it in.

  22. I love manicotti. My sister and I make our own crepes as well. Its not easy but it is so worth it

  23. We love manicotti here! I've gotta try it with the crepes one of these days! Yours look so good!

  24. Oh what I wouldn't give for a taste of that tonight.!! The boys are going to be all out and I thought....hmmm....bark mulch the front flower beds or....pour that chilled white Beds...Wine...Beds...Nope...the wine won out. But I am toooo tired to cook so it is crips baquette and balderson cheese for me tonight...later.

    This looks awesome Katy! You impress me with your foray into crepe making!

  25. Trish, it would be my great pleasure to share these with you!

  26. Mmmmmm, I love manicotti. I've always had trouble stuffing them also. What a brilliant idea to use the crepes. Love your stories, Katy.

  27. really neat with the crepes! I love manicoti but balk at making it because it's so messy, I may have to try this version!

  28. I love the idea of using crepes! ANd the homemade meatballs look SO good!

  29. I love a good Manicotti..I like my meatballs fried in olive oil though hehe...funny how different people's methods can be..I like the crunch that frying gives the outside of the meatball..TY for all of your yummy recipes..:)


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