When I was a kid, my mom always made her special “Italian Meatloaf” for Easter. Ha! It was basically the same meatballs she made every Thursday, only stuffed with mozzarella cheese. I can’t even remember any other Easter dish she made. Later, when I offered to make Easter dinner as a young adult, she seemed happy to let me take over the holiday dinner.
Around this time, a friend gave me a recipe for homemade manicotti — what a perfect pairing with my mom’s Italian meatloaf!
When making manicotti — which have shells that are like crepes — the hotter the pan gets and the quicker you get at twirling the pans, the better they turn out. Before you know it, you feel like a pro turning out paper-thin shells. As the years have gone by, we went from making these manicotti at mom’s house to making them at my house. Now a tradition in my family for almost 40 years, my children and I prepare these melt-in-your-mouth pillows of cheesy deliciousness and share love and memories of Easters past.
- 6 eggs
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
- 1½ cups water
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 pounds part-skim ricotta
- 8 ounces part-skim mozzarella, shredded
- ⅓ cup grated Pecorino Romano
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- Fresh grated Parmesan
- Start by making the shell batter. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, flour, water and salt. Using an electric mixer, mix until smooth. Let stand for 30 minutes or longer.
- Heat an 8-inch non-stick pan on high heat. (I use two pans at a time, otherwise you will be there all day!)
- Pour approximately 3 tablespoons of the batter into the hot pan, rotating the skillet to spread the batter. The technique is just like making crepes.
- When the manicotti shell’s top is dry and the bottom is not yet brown, flip. Transfer cooked shells onto a wire rack to cool.
- Continue with the remaining batter. Stack finished shells with wax paper squares in between each shell.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Make the filling by combining ricotta, mozzarella, Pecorino Romano, eggs, salt, pepper and parsley in a large bowl. Stir with wooden spoon.
- Fill each shell with a large dollop — approximately 1 heaping tablespoon — of cheese mixture in the middle. Pull up the sides and pinch them in the middle. Pour marinara on the bottom of a baking pan. Place prepared manicotti on marina and pour remaining marinara over manicotti. Top with grated Parmesan.
- Bake uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes. Makes 20 manicotti.
- If preferred, use half all-purpose and whole-wheat flour in the shells: ¾ cup all-purpose flour and ¾ cup whole-wheat flour