Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Meaty, Beefy Homemade Manicotti

In the oven...beefy, meaty manicotti!

The gods are confused. They gave us 80° sunny weather in March, and now, in May its 59° and gray- grim out. What gives? It is time to plant the tomato plants lingering in a tray on the patio, but the soil in the vegetable garden is too wet to dig into. The peppers should go in too, but it's just mud out there. Like it's April. Instead of wanting to eat Spring-ish, salad-y food, I want comfort food. Homey, delicious Italian stuff. Besides, we’ve had so much asparagus from the garden, I’m tired of it.

But I don't want any old thing. Something rich and delicious. Like homemade manicotti. The good kind made with those wonderful thin Italian egg crepes called "crespelle", not those fat old pasta tubes.  

It might be nearly Memorial Day, the unofficial start of Summer, but I need some solid, savory, warming food. Now. The gods are confused. 

Meaty, Beefy Homemade Manicotti

Note: I've switched up this recipe to use white whole wheat flour instead of regular AP flour, but if that's hard for you to find, just use all purpose. And if you like the baking / lasagna dish, it's from Sophie Conran for Portmeirion, and you can get one just like it here.

Serves 4
For the crespelle / manicotti (Italian crepes)
Makes 12, plus a couple of torn ones

1 cup white whole wheat flour (I prefer King Arthur)
1-1/2 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon of kosher salt

Beat the milk, eggs and salt in a medium bowl with a whisk until combined. Add the flour and whisk until a thin batter forms and the lumps are gone. Cover the bowl with a plate or plastic wrap and set aside for an hour. (or refrigerate for up to 24 hours). Go start cooking the meat filling.

While the meat filling is cooking, make the manicotti / crespelle. Set out a heatproof plate and tear off a dozen or so sheets of wax paper to place between the cooked crepes. Stir the batter; it should not be as thick as pancake batter, but thinner like table cream. If it’s too thick, add water, a tablespoon at a time until it’s thin enough.

Heat a small 8” fry pan with a teaspoon or so of olive oil over medium - low heat. Ladle in a scan ¼ cup of batter, and lift and swirl the pan to spread the batter over the bottom as thin as a crepe. Let it cook until the top is no longer shiny, and then carefully remove from the pan, they may tear a bit as they are delicate, but save the torn ones as they can be used to patch up small tears in the whole ones. Stack as they are cooked with a sheet of waxed paper between them. Set aside until the casserole is ready to assemble.
For the beef filling:
1 T olive oil
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 small carrot, minced
1 small onion, minced
3 large garlic cloves minced
1 cup plain tomato sauce
1 cup whole milk
1 cup dry white wine
Black pepper
½ tsp nutmeg
½ cup Pecorino Romano (Locatelli) cheese
1 egg

In a broad 4-5 quart deep sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and brown the meat, breaking it up as it cooks. When it’s cooked but not yet brown, add the minced carrot, onion and garlic, lower the heat, and continue to sauté until the vegetables begin to soften and the meat is beginning to brown. Add the cup of tomato sauce, the milk and the wine. Bring to a simmer and let cook, stirring occasionally until most of the liquid is gone and you can mound the meat up in a pile with no sauce running out. Remove the meat to a mixing bowl, and let cool to room temperature. While it cooks, go make the crespelle / crepes/ manicotti. When the crespelle are finished, and the meat filling is cooled, stir in the egg and ½ cup of cheese, mixing thoroughly. Make the sauce.

For the Sauce:
4 cups plain tomato sauce or marinara
1 cup dry white wine or red wine
½ cup heavy cream
1 tsp each dried oregano and basil
1 cup coarsely shredded Fontina or Romano cheese (for topping)

Place all the ingredients except for the shredded Fontina or Romano in a 3 quart saucepan, bring to a simmer and cook 5 minutes.

Just place the meat on the lower third of the crepe
 and roll like a cigar into a manicotti.
To Assemble:
Lightly oil or spray a deep 9” x 13” baking dish. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Place 1-1/2 cups of the prepared sauce in the bottom and spread evenly. Take a sheet of waxed paper and dump out the meat filling and pat it into a square. Cut the square into 12 squares with a knife. Or, if you have a good eye, just divide the contents of the bowl into 12 portions.

Lay a crespelle on the counter in front of you, and place one of the filling squares on it, spreading it out into a cylinder of meat filling across the third (see picture above) closest to you and roll up like a cigar, enclosing the meat in the crepe.

Pack them into the dish, and fit any extra along the sides.
Top with sauce and cheese and bake.

Place seam side down in the baking dish. Continue until all the meat and filling is gone. Pour the remaining sauce evenly over the rolled manicotti, covering them all. Sprinkle the shredded cheese evenly over the top and bake for about 50 minute to an hour until it’s all bubbly and the cheese is starting to brown on top.

No comments:

Post a Comment