If there is a signature recipe in my family, it is definitely my Grandmother’s Homemade Manicotti made with homemade manicotti shells. One of the most popular recipes on The Brooklyn Mom, blog is my Authentic Italian Sunday Sauce. The comments I have received is, not only is it delicious. but that its the authenticity and it being an adapted original family recipe that people really relate and respond to. While my focus is generally on easy, healthier recipes, because of this I have started sharing some of the more traditional Italian recipes that I grew up on as well.
This recipe for Traditional and Authentic Homemade Manicotti is much lighter than what you would typically get in most restaurants. I only use homemade manicotti shells and they are extremely thin. Use a 6-8″ pan to get the perfect size shells. Of course all manicotti recipes must have cheese, but all you need is about a tablespoon of this ricotta cheese mixture for each one. They shouldn’t be super dense or heavy.
Growing up, my Nani (Rita, who my daughter is named after), would make her famous manicotti for New Years Day. As the tradition of New Years Day slowly disappeared, it became our first course for Easter. In February 2002, my Nani was diagnosed with brain cancer. I spent much of that time we had left with her making sure I had all of the recipes that we grew up with to be able to continue these traditions for our family.
News flash…there were no recipes lol. All in her head of course! So , my cousin Tricia and I set out to make manicotti that last Easter we were lucky enough to have her. Through a lot of tears, laughs, mishaps, and wine we made our first ever homemade manicotti. Over the years we continued the Easter tradition with my Mom, sister, sister in law, cousins, tweaking and perfecting it as we went.
Homemade Manicotti Recipe (Using homemade shells!)
I make my own marinara sauce, but you can also use your favorite jarred sauce if you like or don’t have the time to make your own. Hands down, my favorite jarred sauce is Rao’s. It is a little more expensive than other brands, but I promise you it is well worth it! I don’t put meat in the sauce when making this manicotti recipe, but I do make meatballs sometimes to go with them. My recipe for Authentic Italian Meatballs comes from my Nani’s sister, my Great Aunt Pat who passed away last year at the age of 94.
Use 1/4 -Size (Quarter) sheet pans (like the ones in the picture below) to assemble and bake the manicotti. They are the perfect size and available on Amazon or in most dollar stores
TIP: You can make the manicotti shells and fill them a day ahead of time. Store them on parchment lined baking sheets in the refrigerator. Add the sauce and bake at 350 degrees the next day!
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- For the Shells:
- 8 Eggs
- 3 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
- 3 Cups Water
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- Non Stick Cooking Spray
- For the Filling:
- 3 Eggs
- 1 Large (32 oz) and 1 small (15 oz) Container of Part Skim Ricotta
- 1 Small (16 oz) and 1 small (8 oz) Mozzarella
- 3 Tablespoons Grated Parmesan Cheese
- 1/2 Cup Milk or Water
- 1/4 Cup Finely Chopped Flat Leaf Parsley
- To Assemble:
- 6 Cups Marinara Sauce
- 1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
- Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
- Whisk together the ingredients for the shells in a large bowl
- Preheat an 8" non stick pan on low to medium heat and spray with non stick spray
- Fill a large ladle 3/4 full of the shell mixture. Add to the pan, quickly swirl around and dump out the excess back into the bowl
- Cook the shell for a few minutes until the edges begin to pull away from the edge of the pan. With a paring knife, cut around the shell to loosen and flip it over, cooking for 10 seconds more.
- Remove from pan and continue making the shells until the batter is used up. Place cooked shells on a parchment lined aluminum tray to cool
- Ladle sauce into your baking dish to cover the bottom
- Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of ricotta mixture into the middle of the shell. Fold the sides in and place seam side down onto the baking tray. Repeat until all of the shells are filled
- Ladle more sauce over to cover the manicotti, Sprinkle the grated parmesan cheese on top
- Cover with foil and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until sauce bubbles