Stuffed manicotti with fresh marinara sauce

  • For the crespelle batter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 360ml milk
  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 150g plain flour
  • Pinch salt
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • For the ricotta filling
  • 450g ricotta cheese
  • 225g shredded mozzarella cheese (in a 225g bag)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 10g fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • For the marinara sauce
  • 60ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 (400g) tins chopped tomatoes (recommended: San Marzano)
  • 10g Italian parsley, fresh, finely chopped
  • 15g fresh basil leaves, torn
  • Salt and pepper
  • For the manicotti topping
  • 50g grated Parmesan
1) In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and melted butter. Gradually whisk in the flour and salt until the mixture is smooth. Refrigerate for 1 hour until slightly thickened.

2) Spray a 20cm nonstick frying pan with cooking spray and place the pan over a medium heat. With a small ladle, pour about 3 tbsp of the batter into the pan. Turn the pan at a 45 degree angle to coat the pan evenly so the batter forms a perfect circle.

3) Cook the crepe only until lightly browned, about 30 seconds. Turn the crepe over with a spatula and cook the other side only until lightly browned, about 30 seconds. Slide the crepe onto a 30cm platter and continue the process with the remaining batter.

4) Stack the crepes between waxed paper so they don't stick. You can prepare these crepes a day in advance and store covered in cling film in the refrigerator. No need to reheat the crepes before filling and baking.

Ricotta filling:
1) In a large bowl, add all the ingredients for the ricotta filling. With a large wooden spoon or spatula, stir until well blended.

2) Store covered in cling film in the refrigerator until ready to use. You can make this filling the day before.

Marinara sauce:
1) In a large heavy nonreactive saucepan with a lid, heat the olive oil on a medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic and cook until fragrant but NOT browned.

2) Add the crushed tomatoes to the pan and crush further with a potato masher. Simmer 30 minutes, slightly covered, on medium-low heat, stirring every so often.

3) Add the parsley, basil leaves and salt and pepper, to taste, and simmer for another 10 minutes until the sauce is slightly reduced. Taste and re-season as necessary.

1) Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas 5. Coat the bottom of a 33cm by 923cm glass or ceramic baking dish with 240ml of the prepared marinara sauce.

2) Spoon 3 tbsp of the prepared ricotta filling 2cm from the edge of a crepe. Roll the crepe evenly into a log, keeping the filling even as you roll. Repeat with the remaining crepes.

3) Place the manicotti seam side down and side by side in the sauced baking pan. Spoon 1 to 2 cups of sauce over the top of the manicotti. Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan.

4) Cover the baking dish loosely with foil and bake about 20 minutes. Uncover and bake another 20 minutes until the topping is golden brown and sides are bubbling. Leave to rest about 15 minutes before serving to firm up the manicotti filling.

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