This homemade manicotti is a cheesy, hearty and deliciously satisfying meatless Italian meal the whole family will love. Making the manicotti shells (crepes or crespelle) from scratch is easier than you think and totally worth it! And it's easy to make them gluten-free too.Jump to Recipe
My dad has been making homemade manicotti since I can remember, and it was always one of my favorites.
I looked forward to having it for every holiday...Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving...
OK, maybe not Thanksgiving.
But it felt like we were the only ones having Italian food during the holidays while all of my friends were eating ham.
Trust me, I wasn't complaining. I'll take some pasta oozing with three kinds of cheese over ham any day.
Growing up, I definitely ate my fair share of Italian food.
My dad is 50% Italian and taught me all of his family recipes...well, almost all of them. He can't seem to find his grandmother's recipe for knot cookies.
I remember visiting my her as a child at her row house in Newark, New Jersey. I have no idea why, but I called her "Big Grandma."
She lived in a very Italian neighborhood.
In fact, instead of an ice cream truck, an Italian ice truck visited her street in the summer months.
That truck had the best chocolate Italian ice!
Anyway, Big Grandma grew lots of delicious herbs in her driveway garden, cooked monstrous pots of homemade sauce and baked the most delicious Italian knot cookies one has ever tasted.
I hope one day my dad finds the recipe!
To be completely honest, I never thought I'd end up making this by myself.
Since it was my dad's signature dish, I kind of enjoyed having him make it for me.
The whole process just seemed so tedious. I didn't realize it was actually pretty easy until I finally broke down and actually made it.
How to make homemade manicotti - step by step
Make the filling
First, prepare this ricotta cheese mixture consisting of ricotta, mozzarella, grated cheese, eggs, parsley and black pepper for the filling.
Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the crepes (crespelle) aka "the shells" for the manicotti
Preheat your oven to 350°F and lay out two sheets of parchment or wax paper on the counter.
Now, prepare the crepe (crespelle) batter.
In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and milk together with handheld electric mixer.
Add flour and beat with handheld mixer until there are no lumps.
Lightly grease an 8-inch nonstick pan by spraying some oil on a paper towel and wiping your pan with it.
Heat pan over medium heat.
When the pan is hot, add approximately ¼ cup batter to the center of the pan and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan.
Cook until the sides are set and start to separate from pan.
The middle should be almost set but not quite (approximately 15-20 seconds).
Carefully lift edge with spatula and quickly flip crepe over.
Cook for 15-20 seconds more (crepe should be a light golden brown).
Use the spatula to remove the crepe from skillet and place onto the parchment or wax paper.
Repeat with the remaining batter, continuing to grease pan as needed until you’ve used up your batter.
Assemble the manicotti
Once all the crepes are done, lightly line the bottoms of two 13” x 9” baking dishes with tomato sauce and set aside.
Add approximately ⅓ cup of the ricotta cheese filling toward the bottom of one of the crepe shells.
Press down slightly but don’t let cheese go past the edges.
Roll up tightly and place seam side down into baking dish.
Top and bake
Once all the manicotti are in the baking dishes, top with remaining sauce and mozzarella cheese.
Cover and bake for 30 minutes.
Uncover and bake for 15-20 more minutes.
How to make a gluten-free version
After Greg adopted a gluten-free diet, I found myself in a pickle.
How was I going to make gluten-free crepes for the manicotti and stay true to my dad's original recipe?
Enter chickpea flour.
Once I discovered this gem of an ingredient, my whole world changed.
Seriously, for once I'm actually not being sarcastic. 😉
After trying out chickpea flour in other recipes, I knew this was the right flour for the job.
It's also a good source of fiber and protein as well as other nutrients, which to me, makes it even more awesome.
So, I invited my dad over on Father's Day to test it out! The result?
WE HAD A WINNER!
There were just a few adjustments to be made to the measurements and bam! It was perfect! Even the kids were gaga over it!
In fact, my eldest asked me to teach her how to make it. So, we made it together for this blog post.
Now, we have three generations of manicotti-makers in the family!
Would you like to join us as an honorary member of our manicotti-making family? We'd love to have you. 🙂
Frequently asked questions
Yes, you can definitely make this dish a day ahead of time. Prepare as directed up until baking. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator and keep on the counter at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.
Store leftover baked manicotti in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Reheat covered in a 350° F oven or in the microwave until warmed throughout.
Yes, you can either freeze before baking or after. If freezing the whole batch, be sure to wrap tightly with a layer of plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil. If freezing individually, freeze in an airtight freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before baking/reheating.
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Homemade Manicotti [with Gluten-Free Option]
FOR THE FILLING
FOR THE MANICOTTI SHELLS (CREPES/CRESPELLE)
- 6 large eggs
- 1 cup milk, whole or 2%
- 1 cup all purpose flour (use 1 ¼ cups chickpea flour for the gluten-free option)
- olive oil spray for greasing
- 56 oz. tomato or marinara sauce
- 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese, whole milk or part skim
- Prepare ricotta cheese mixture according to recipe and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Lay out two sheets of parchment or wax paper on the counter.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and milk together with an electric hand mixer.
- Add flour and beat with an electric hand mixer until there are no lumps.
- Lightly grease an 8-inch nonstick pan by spraying some oil on a paper towel and wiping your pan with it.
- Heat pan over medium heat.
- When pan is hot, add approximately ¼ cup batter (about ¾ of a ladleful) to the center of the pan and swirl to cover bottom of pan.
- Cook until edges are set and start to separate from pan, middle should be almost set but not quite (approximately 15-20 seconds).
- Carefully lift edge with a spatula and quickly flip crepe over.
- Cook for 15-20 seconds more (crepe should be a light golden brown).
- Use the spatula to remove crepe from skillet and place onto parchment or wax paper.
- Repeat with remaining batter, continuing to grease pan as needed until you’ve used up your batter.
- Once all the crepes are done, lightly line the bottoms of two 13” x 9” baking dishes with tomato sauce and set aside.
- Add approximately ⅓ cup ricotta cheese mixture toward the bottom of one of the crepe shells. Press down slightly but don’t let cheese go past the edges.
- Roll up tightly and place seam side down into baking dish.
- Once all the manicotti are in the baking dishes, top with remaining sauce and mozzarella cheese.
- Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
- Uncover and cook for 15-20 more minutes.
(Please refer to the post above for instructional photographs for this recipe)
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