If you choose to make the manicotti with pasta squares, fill and roll them on a damp towel—it will make them easier to handle. For a lighter, thinner sauce add a little stock to the tomato sauce or to the baking dish after you add the sauce, or don’t cook the sauce quite so much when you make it. If you have some fresh basil in the kitchen, tear some leaves and scatter them over the manicotti in the dish right before you bake them.
Prep time: 1 Hour
Yield: 6 servings (about 18 manicotti)
- 1 pound fresh ricotta cheese or one 15-ounce container whole-milk ricotta cheese
- Tomato Sauce
- Crepes or Cooked Pasta Squares
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups cubed (1/4 inches) fresh mozzarella (about 6 ounces)
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- ½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- Pinch freshly grated nutmeg, preferably freshly ground
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, grated (about 1 ¼ cups; optional)
- Spoon the ricotta into a large, fine-mesh sieve or a colander lined with a double thickness of cheesecloth or a basket-type coffee filter. Set the sieve over a bowl and cover the ricotta well with plastic wrap. Let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator at least overnight, or up to 24 hours. Discard the liquid in the bottom of the bowl.
- Make the tomato sauce and the crepes or pasta squares. (The crepes may be made up to one day in advance; the pasta squares up to several hours in advance.)
- Whisk the eggs and salt together in a large bowl until foamy. Add the drained ricotta, the mozzarella cubes, ½ cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, the parsley, pepper and nutmeg. Stir well until blended.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Coat the bottom of each of two 13 x 9-inch baking pans (or any two pans into which the manicotti will fit comfortably) with ½ cup of the sauce. Working with one crepe or pasta square at a time, spoon 3 full tablespoons of the ricotta filling about 1 inch from the edge closest to you. Roll loosely into a cylinder, smoothing out the filling along the length of the tube as you roll.
- Arrange the manicotti, seam side down and side-by-side, over the sauce in the baking pans. Spoon the remaining sauce over the manicotti and sprinkle them with the remaining ½ cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Cover the baking dishes loosely with aluminum foil and poke the foil several times with a fork.
- Bake 20 minutes. Uncover the dishes, scatter the grated mozzarella, if using, over the top of the manicotti and bake until the edges are bubbling and the cheese topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes.