This Cheese Manicotti Recipe is a fantastic Sunday night dinner idea that takes a little time to prepare but the results are well worth the effort!
It’s a crepe-style manicotti recipe that uses crepes in place of pasta tubes. The results are fantastic! The crepes create the lightest, most pillowy manicotti that is just a slice of heaven!
This manicotti recipe originates from my Dad’s Italian side of the family. It was made, believe it or not, as a first course, which was then followed by a fish course, a meat course, and then naturally a bunch of fantastic desserts! Cannoli anyone?
Seriously, how was this even possible?! And I thought my French in-laws sat at the table too long!
These manicotti were made for special occasions like Easter (which I believe is the occasion being celebrated in the family photo above) or Christmas.
This version is my grandmother’s recipe. It was preserved in the family recipe box that was presented to my Mom when she married into the family. Mom is the pretty lady in the far right corner.
The funny thing about this recipe is the only part of it that was written down was the instructions for the crepes, the rest of the recipe is pretty vague. It reads as “some ricotta cheese” and “a little bit of parmesan” etc.
So Dad and I had “to piece” the rest of it together. But once he tasted it he assured me it was just like the real thing!
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Making a Crepe-Style Manicotti
OK, so the crepes are the most time-consuming part of this recipe. But really when I think about it, they are no more time consuming than boiling and draining manicotti pasta tubes?! And trust me the crepes-style manicotti is SO much better! It’s lighter and less filling too!
The size of the pan is key, I think a 6-8″ non-stick pan is the way to go (this link goes to Amazon where I am an affiliate partner). And it’s the perfect size for making my Foolproof Omelet in too! So it’s worth the investment if you don’t already have one!
Do I really Need 4 Eggs for the Crepes?
Yes! This crepe batter has 4 eggs in it, which may seem a bit excessive but I have learned that eggs make crepes pliable and stretchy, so if you want to avoid any cracks or tears, 4 eggs are the way to go!
If you reduce the eggs, you’ll increase the crepe’s fragility. So I say stick with “Nonnie’s” recipe for the crepes, I mean it was the only part of the recipe that was written down all these years, so someone knew it was important!
Filling the Cheese Manicotti
Once the crepes are made, fill them with the ricotta cheese mixture, at the far end closest to you and roll them up. Do this step only moments before baking the manicotti. Otherwise, the moisture in the ricotta cheese will start to seep out and make your crepes soggy.
- If you want to do the crepes and the sauce ahead of time, you can do them the day before then keep them separated in the refrigerator until ready to assemble.
- If you have any leftover ricotta cheese you can put it to good use in my Lemon Ricotta Pancakes the next day! If you have never had ricotta cheese in a pancake you are in for a treat! It makes them so light and fluffy!
What’s the Difference Between Cheese Manicotti and Canneloni?
While these two Italian classics may look the same, they have one distinction. Manicotti typically has a cheese filling and a vegetable or meat sauce on top. Whereas cannelloni, typically has meat or vegetables mixed in with the ricotta cheese filling and has a plain tomato sauce on top.
Then you’ll place your filled crepes in a large casserole dish. I like to use a round dish because it looks really pretty when the crepes are laid out in opposing directions. But you could also use a 9 x 14 casserole dish too. Then top with cheese and bake!
Mix Up The Cheese For Best Flavor
I like to use a really gooey cheese like mozzarella for the top and then use a 4-cheese Italian blend cheese for the cheese filling. If you can’t find the “Italian Blend Cheese” then do a cup of mozzarella and half-cup of parmesan cheese for flavor.
Once the cheese has melted and is bubbling you can then add a chiffonade of fresh basil to the top. This would be a great recipe for having a crowd over to watch the game or a Sunday night family dinner. I hope it becomes a new classic in your own home! Enjoy!
What’s For Dessert?
You could round out the Italian theme by serving some delicious Tiramisu Cupcakes for dessert!
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- 2 tbsp (30ml) olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, pierce with a fork or quartered
- (4) 15 oz cans (1640ml) pure tomato sauce
- salt pepper to taste
- 1 (5ml) tsp Italian seasoning
- A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
- Large sprig of fresh basil
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup (120g) all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp (2.5ml) salt
- 1 cup (240ml) of water
- Butter for greasing pan
- 16 oz (450g) ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
- 1 ½ cups (195g) Italian Blend Cheese (or 1 cup (150g) mozzarella and ½ cup (45g) freshly grated parmesan)
- ¼ cup (60ml) fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1 cup (150g) mozzarella
- 2 tbsp (30ml) Fresh basil, rolled and sliced into a chiffonade
Prepare the sauce first.
In a large pot add the olive oil. Once hot, add the garlic and flavor the oil with it for a few minutes until lightly browned.
Add tomato sauce, season with salt and pepper, Italian seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, large basil spring. Allow sauce to simmer for at least 30 minutes to sweeten.
Meanwhile, prepare the crepes. In a large bowl add the eggs, whisk to combine. Then add the salt to the flour, whisk to combine.
Then slowly add the flour/salt mixture, little by little to the eggs, alternating with the water, until both have been used up. You’ll have a runny batter on your hands the consistency of “heavy cream”.
Grease a small non-stick 6” pan with 1 tsp of butter once hot pour 1 ladle of batter in the pan, swirl batter around until fully coated. Allow to cook until set, flip with a thin spatula and cook for 1-2 minutes more on the other side. Stack on a plate. Continue the process until 8 crepes are made, set aside.
Prepare the filling. In a medium-sized bowl add the ricotta, egg, salt and pepper, cheese and parsley, stir to combine.
Fish out the garlic and the basil sprig from the sauce and discard. Or press the garlic through a garlic press to mince it back into the sauce.
Ladle a few spoonfuls of the sauce into the bottom of an oven-safe 9 x 14 casserole dish.
Then add 2-3 tablespoons of the filling on top of the crepe, at the edge closest to you, roll up the crepe into a tight log, place in the casserole dish, seam side down.
Ladle more sauce just over the middle of the crepes so the ends show the crepes peeking through at the top and bottom. Top sauce with freshly grated mozzarella cheese.
Bake at 375F (190C) for 15-20 minutes, place until the broiler for 1-2 minutes to allow the cheese to melt and bubble. Garnish with fresh basil
You can make the sauce and the crepes the day before, cover and refrigerate.
But do not assemble the manicotti beforehand wait until just before baking otherwise the ricotta cheese will release moisture into the crepes and make them soggy.