Manicotti has long been one of my favorite dishes. Too many restaurants slap out indifferent tubes of pasta filled with mediocre ricotta cheese and dried herbs, coated with pizza sauce. The real deal is something truly special, with light crepes wrapped around super fresh ricotta and glazed with a carefully prepared sauce. Here we’ve made green onion crepes and filled them with home made ricotta and fresh herbs. The sauce has a rich earthy quality from the bacon and prosciutto ends (if you’re lucky your local market will sell them to you for a song) and the whole meal will make you and your guests feel incredibly pampered and happy. They don’t have to know that it’s actually quite easy to put it all together and that as long as you start with great ingredients it’s almost impossible to go wrong.
8 ounces / 225 grams bacon ends (high quality, smoky bacon)
8 ounces/ 225 grams prosciutto ends
2 large onions
1 1/3 cups / 300 grams white wine
1-28 ounce / 785 grams can fire roasted tomatoes
Green Onion Crepes:
70 grams/6 green onions, cleaned and trimmed
2 large eggs¼ cup / 56 grams water
¾ cup / 195 grams milk
3 tablespoons / 40 grams unsalted butter, melted
1 cup / 150 grams all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon / 3 grams fine sea salt
16 ounces / 450 grams ricotta cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
5.5 ounces 150 grams / 155 grams fresh mozzarella, small dice
4 tablespoons / 25 grams grated Parmigiano-Regiano cheese
small handful / 5 grams flat Italian parsley leaves, chopped
¼ teaspoon / 1.5 grams fine sea salt
Green Onion Crepes
Cut the bacon ends, prosciutto ends and onions into large dice. Put them through a meat fitted with a ¼-inch die and grind them together. Transfer the mixture to a large sauce pot and set it over medium low heat. Put the lid on the pot and sweat the meat for about 20 minutes until soft and tender. Remove the lid and add the white wine. Turn the heat up to medium and cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture is almost dry. Lightly crush the tomatoes and add them, along with all of their liquid, to the pot. Bring the mixture to simmer and cook for about 20 minutes so that sauce can thicken and the flavors come together. The sauce can be used immediately but will benefit from cooling and resting in the refrigerator overnight. The sauce can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before using.
Green Onion Crepes
Set the green onions on a rack set over a sheet pan and use a propane torch to char the green onions on all sides. Once they cool enough to handle, thinly slice the onions. Put them in a blender with the eggs, water, milk, butter, flour and salt. Turn the blender on low and slowly increase the speed to medium for 10 seconds until you have a smooth puree. Let the mixture rest for 20 minutes before using. Set a rack over a sheet pan. Place an 8-inch nonstick pan over medium low heat. Once it gets hot a 2 tablespoons of batter to the pan, swirling so that it coats the bottom. Let it cook for about 20 seconds, until just set and then flip the crepe. Let it cook for another 10 seconds and then transfer to the rack to cool. Repeat until all of the batter is used up. Once the crepes are cool they can be stacked on small plate. Makes approximately 18 crepes.
Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C
Put the ricotta cheese, egg, mozzarella cheese, 12 grams (2 tablespoons) Parmigiano-Reggiano, parsley and salt in a medium bowl and mix gently with a rubber spatula to combine. Transfer to a pastry bag or large zip top bag fitted with a ½-inch plain tip. Spread approximately 1/3 of your manicotti sauce in an even layer on the bottom of a 12x15-inch roasting pan. Lay out one crepe on your cutting board and pipe two lines of cheese across the bottom third of the crepe, about an inch above the bottom edge. Lift the bottom of the crepe up and over the cheese, rolling it into a cylinder. Lay the filled crepe, seam side down in the roasting pan. Repeat with the remaining crepes. Nestle them together in the pan and then spoon the remaining sauce over the top. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmigianno-Reggiano over the top of the manicotti. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 20 minutes more until the cheese is golden brown and the casserole is bubbling and heated through. Serve immediately.