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Signature dish

Signature Dish: Stuffed Manicotti With Fresh Marinara Sauce

ATOYIA DEANS   |   Times

ATOYIA DEANS | Times

Who: Lorraine Fina Stevenski, 55, Clearwater.

What: Stuffed Manicotti With Fresh Marinara Sauce, which was recently featured in a Food Network competition.

How often she makes it: My manicotti recipe is simple and Old World. It is comforting to eat and melts in your mouth. I make manicotti for family gatherings and special occasions as the recipe takes a bit of time — not for a regular weeknight meal. I will usually make eggplant parmigiano and roasted balsamic chicken to accompany.

Where's the recipe from? It's a variation on my mom's original recipe. She passed away a few years ago and left me her wooden recipe box. There are 50 years of great recipes from my Italian aunts and Mom's Italian friends. In that box, I found a tattered recipe card with her manicotti recipe typed out. I submitted my version to the Food Network on a whim one night. There was an ad for a show called the Ultimate Recipe Show Down and they were asking for recipes that were from family recipe archives.

WHEN DID SHE START COOKING? I started enjoying cooking when I was about 9 or 10. My grandparents were still alive and my family would cook together in our small kitchen in New York. My Grandpa Cucci had a wonderful garden where he grew beautiful tomatoes, grapes and figs. We crushed the tomatoes to make our Sunday tomato sauce. We grilled lemon chicken and fresh sausages on our outdoor grill. We ate as a family on Sundays and invited all the aunts, uncles and cousins from miles around. I have so many wonderful memories of those days in New York when our family was still together.

Signature Dish is published periodically in Taste. If you have a recipe that you would like featured or would like to nominate other home cooks and their dishes, please e-mail the information to features@sptimes.com with a name and daytime phone number. Include SIGNATURE DISH in the subject line. Nominations can be mailed to Taste, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

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Stuffed Manicotti With Fresh
Marinara Sauce

Crespelle batter:

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

3 tablespoons melted butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

Pinch salt

Vegetable cooking spray

Ricotta filling:

1 pound ricotta cheese

1/2 pound shredded mozzarella cheese (in an
8-ounce bag)

1 large egg

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped

Marinara sauce:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion, chopped fine

8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (recommended: San Marzano)

1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

Salt and pepper

Manicotti topping:

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Make the crepes (crespelle):

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.

Spray an 8-inch nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Place the pan over medium heat. With a small ladle, pour about 3 tablespoons 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. 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 12-inch platter and continue the process with remaining batter. Stack the crepes between waxed paper so they don't stick. You can prepare these crepes a day in advance covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator. No need to reheat the crepes before filling and baking.

Make the ricotta filling:

In a large bowl, add all the ingredients for the ricotta filling. With a large wooden spoon or spatula, stir all the ingredients until well blended. Store covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator until ready to use. You can make this filling the day before.

Make the marinara sauce:

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

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 reseason as necessary.

Put it all together:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat the bottom of a 13- by 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with 1 cup of the prepared marinara sauce.

Spoon 3 tablespoons of the prepared ricotta filling 1 inch from the edge of a crepe. Roll evenly into a log, keeping the filling even as you roll. Repeat with the remaining crepes. Place 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.

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. Let rest about 15 minutes before serving to firm up the manicotti filling.

Source: Lorraine Fina Stevenski, Clearwater, featured on Food Network's Ultimate Recipe Showdown: Pasta

Signature Dish: Stuffed Manicotti With Fresh Marinara Sauce 09/09/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 9, 2008 11:20am]

    

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