Savory Crêpes Baked with Ricotta Filling
There are two common names for this dish in Italian. One is cannelloni, meaning “big reed,” and the other is manicotti, or “cooked hands,” probably because the cook’s fingers can get scorched when preparing the crêpes.
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- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 2 cups milk
- Vegetable oil, for the pan
- 3 cups strained ricotta
- 1 cup cubed mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 cup ground beef
- 2 1/2 cups Tomato pulp
- about 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, for greasing
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese
For the Crêpes:
- Sift the flour and mix it with the salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the flour and pour in the beaten eggs. Beat the eggs to slowly incorporate the flour mixture that surrounds them. Be gentle, otherwise lumps of flour could form. Once the egg and flour are mixed, slowly add the milk, a little at a time, whisking all the time. After all the milk is added, keep whisking until small bubbles form on the surface. The batter can be prepared a day in advance, if necessary, and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Heat an 8-inch nonstick pan over medium heat. Pour a little vegetable oil on a folded paper towel, and wipe it evenly inside the pan. Pour in about 3 tablespoons batter. Using your wrist to tilt the pan, slightly remove the pan from the heat and spread the batter evenly to cover the whole surface with a thin layer. Return the pan to the stovetop over low to medium heat and cook the batter for about 1 minute. Flip and cook the other side for about 30 seconds, until the crêpe is golden in color. It’s best to flip the crêpe with your fingers, because it’s very delicate. Transfer the crêpe to a plate. Repeat these steps until you are out of batter, stacking the cooked crêpes on the plate. The stacked crêpes can be covered with a damp paper towel, then with plastic wrap, and refrigerated for up to 1 day.
For the Filling:
- In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, pecorino, beaten eggs, basil, and salt and stir to combine. The filling can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to stuff the crepes.
For the sauce:
- In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over low heat. Add the onion and gently sauté over low to medium heat until translucent. Raise the heat, add the beef, and let brown until the meat is cooked, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato pulp and 21/2 cups water. Let cook over low heat for 45 minutes, until the sauce has reduced by half. Salt to taste and set aside.
To assemble the crêpes:
- Spread 2 tablespoons ricotta filling on a crêpe, distributing the filling evenly and leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Roll the crêpe into a cylinder, or fold it into a pocket by folding the left, right, and bottom sides toward the center of the crêpe before rolling it. Repeat with the remaining crêpes and filling.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the bottom of a 10 by 16-inch baking pan with a very thin coating of vegetable oil. Place the filled crêpes, seam sides down, in the baking pan. Do not worry if they are tightly packed. The tighter the crêpes are packed, the less chance they will unfold during the cooking process.
- Top the crêpes with the tomato-meat sauce, but leave the edges of the crêpes bare so that they will get crispy when baked. Sprinkle with the cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes, until the top of the crêpes where the cheese has melted is browned. Serve immediately.
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