The deliciousness of this recipe comes from the homemade manicotti pasta I learned to make in the village of Sant’ Ambrogio, Sicily. I’m calling these crepe-like pasta manicotti, but they’re not actually called manicotti in Italy. Some Americans may also call them cannelloni, but the Sicilian cook called them crespelle. Call them whatever you like, but they are the easiest, tastiest pasta you’ll ever eat. Just try them.
Today I decided to stuff the pasta with a ricotta and spinach mixture topped with my fresh homemade tomato sauce. When we made this pasta in Sicily, we stuffed them with zucchini blossoms, red onion, prosciutto, and a white gravy. That way was delicious, too, and I promise to show you the recipe on another post. If you’d like to know more about my Sicilian cooking experience with Mimmo, the cook, visit their site here: http://www.sicilianexperience.com/cooking-course-1d.html The day James and I spent cooking with Mimmo was incredible. We learned so much about Sicilian cooking, and Mimmo was such a good teacher and a delightful host. We cooked and ate all day. If you’re ever in Sicily, it’s well worth the money to book a class with Mimmo.
This recipe usually makes a pan this size and a couple of extra pastas that I save in the refrigerator to cook the next day or two.
Make the pasta first using these ingredients: all purpose flour, eggs, milk, salt and nutmeg.
For every 5 ounces of flour use one egg. I always double the recipe to have enough to serve my entire family. Put the flour in a large bowl and make a pool in the middle. Add the eggs and start to whisk it, adding in the flour to the middle. Gradually add the milk.
These next few pictures are going to be less colorful and kind of boring, but they are necessary to help teach you the pasta-making process. I’ll make the pictures smaller to help them be more tolerable.
It should look like soupy pancake batter. This next step can be omitted, but I like to make sure all the lumps are out so I pour batter through a sifter. Whisk it around to press all the lumps through. Pour a little milk over it to get all your batter into the bowl.
Pour a ladle full of batter into a nonstick skillet. I rub the pan with a little butter before I pour each one.
Cook it on low heat until it starts to have a rubbery texture. The pasta should be able to slide in the skillet when you give it a shake. That’s when you flip it. And flipping is the tricky and may take a little practice. I slide the pasta in my skillet to where part of it hangs over. I grab it with my fingers and flip it. If this is too hard, you can lift the edge with a spatula to grab and flip it. Cook it a bit more until the other side is kind of golden. If you have a good non-stick skillet the pasta should slide right off the skillet onto a baking pan to cool. I stack them on top of each other until I prepare the filling.
Set these aside and mix up the filling. Use two cups chopped fresh spinach with ricotta. Sorrento brand is the one I like the best. It has the texture and taste most like the ricotta we had in Italy. Of course, nothing compares to the fresh ricotta you get in Italy, but we can’t get the Italian type. 🙁 You’ll also need a small onion, a cup of mozzarella or shredded Italian blend grated cheese, salt and red pepper flakes.
Saute’ the onion and spinach in a skillet with olive oil. Drain off the water and add to a large bowl. Stir in a 32 ounce container of ricotta and a cup of grated cheese. Salt and sprinkle with red pepper flakes.
Place the filled pastas in large baking pan. Spread a scoop of pasta sauce on the pan first.
Cover with my homemade tomato sauce and grate some Pericono cheese over the top. I don’t measure it so just add the amount that suits your taste. Here’s the link to my homemade sauce: http://www.eatwritepacklight.com/?s=tomato+sauce
Serve with an Italian salad and/or vegetables and enjoy. Your family will love you for it!
- For the pasta:
- 10 ounces of flour
- 2 eggs
- 1½ cups of milk, approximately
- butter, enough to keep the pan buttery
- For the filling:
- 32 ounces of quality ricotta
- 1 cup grated Italian blend cheese or mozzarella
- 2 cups chopped, fresh spinach
- 1 onion
- ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- For the Topping:
- 2 cups of chunky tomato sauce, preferably homemade
- a few sprinkles of Pericono cheese or an soft Italian cheese
- For the Pasta:
- In a large bowl, add the flour and make a pool in the middle.
- Add the eggs to the middle pool.
- Whisk the egg without getting to much of the flour away from the sides.
- Gradually add the milk, stirring the entire time, pulling in a little flour with each stir.
- When it's completely blended, you can pour it through a sifter to make sure all the small lumps are removed. (This step is optional)
- Rub a non-stick skillet with butter and put it on medium-low heat.
- Using a ladle, scoop a ladle full of batter onto one side of the skillet.
- Holding the skillet in your hand, roll the batter until it covers the entire bottom.
- Place it back onto the stovetop and continue to cook until it becomes a rubbery texture.
- Using your hands flip the pasta to cook the other side. If possible slide the pasta to the edge by shaking the skillet so it can be grabbed. If that doesn't work, use a spatula to lift the edge of the pasta. Flip it fast because it's hot to touch. Set the pasta aside, stacked one on top of the other while the filling is made.
- Repeat until all the batter is gone. Make sure to butter the skillet each time.
- For the Filling and remaining steps:
- Saute' onion and spinach in olive oil.
- Slightly drain off the water. You can use a draining spoon to do this.
- In a large bowl add the spinach, onions, ricotta, cheese, salt and red pepper flakes.
- Mix this with a spoon until evenly blended.
- Spread a large spoonful of mixture onto the pasta. Place it slightly off-centered. Spread it across making it about three inches wide and the length of the pasta.
- Fold the shorter side of the pasta over and then the other side, sort of like a burrito.
- Spread a spoonful of pasta sauce in the bottom of a large baking pan.
- Place the filled pastas in the pan side by side.
- Cover with a chunky tomato sauce. I like my homemade tomato sauce posted on my blog, www.eatwritepacklight.com
- Sprinkle with Pericono cheese.
- Cook in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
- Note: The cook time on this recipe doesn't include making the pasta. The pasta can be made the day before and stored in the refrigerator if needed.