Some say “Home is where the heart is.” For me, home is where the food is. There is nothing better than the smell and warmth of a homemade pot of Marinara Sauce on the stove and a bunch of cheese aimlessly around the kitchen. This is childhood, tweenhood, and adulthood for me. Food and cooking have always been a huge part of my life. I have watched generation after generation learn from one another to create and pass on our family recipes.
I come from a somewhat large Italian family and through my years of experience I stereotypically believe, other than futbol, Italians really are only good at cooking and eating. I unfortunately, did not receive the athletic gene, so cooking and eating for me, it is! Because of this, there is a certain connection that I place on cooking and family. Cooking is something that not only allows you to create delicious meals, it allows you to create memories with your favorite people!
When I began working at The Chopping Block, it was great to be around people who cared about food as much as I did. It was as if I was gaining a whole new family! The first class I ever took was Pasta Workshop (I was really broadening my horizons with this one). But I am happy to report that I actually did learn a lot!
I think we take cooking for granted at times. For me, it is very rewarding to start with 4 or so ingredients, and after some mixing, rolling and cutting, you have something delicious! I have always known how to make pasta, but never took the initiative to do it on my own (which looking back, was the worst decision ever because it is so much better than boxed pasta!).
In this particular class we made a couple of different dishes, but the one I want to focus on is Manicotti. To give you some background, all my life I was told to pronounce this dish as “mon-i-gaut”. It is pasta filled with a ricotta cheese mixture and then baked in the oven with lots of sauce and cheese! So imagine my surprise when Chef Lisa Counts starts talking about this dish, it seemed all too familiar. I am going to blame dialect for this mishap, but the way my family makes this dish is completely different from what we learned in class that day. It was super interesting to think about how recipes can progress from person to person while the overall concept remains the same. That being said, I may start adapting The Chopping Block’s recipe, as it was much easier than my family recipe (don’t tell my Grandma)!
Since your mouths are likely watering, I am going to share my top-secret family recipe for Manicotti:
Makes 40 manicotti
6 Eggs, room temperature
1 ½ cups All-purpose Flour
¼ teaspoon Salt
1 ½ cups water
2 lbs. Ricotta Cheese
1-8 oz. package of Mozzarella Cheese (diced)
½ cup of grated Parmesan Cheese
1 teaspoon of Salt
¼ teaspoons of Pepper
1 tbsp. Chopped Parsley
¼ cup of grated Parmesan Cheese (for sprinkling at the end)
- Make Manicotti: In a medium bowl, combine 6 eggs, flour, ¼ teaspoon salt and 1 ½ cups of water and beat with electric mixer, just until smooth. Let stand for ½ hour or longer. Slowly heat an 8” skillet. Pour in 3 tablespoons batter, rotating the skillet quickly to spread batter evenly over the bottom of the pan. Cook over medium heat until top is dry but bottom is not brown. Turn out on wire rack to cool. Continue cooking until all of the batter is used. As the manicotti cool, stack them with waxed paper between them.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Make Filling: In a large bowl, combine ricotta, mozzarella, 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, the eggs, salt, pepper and parsley and beat with wooden spoon to blend well. Spread about ¼ cup filling down the center of each manicotti and roll up.
- Spoon ½ cup Marinara Sauce into a 12x8x2 inch baking dishes. Place eight rolled manicotti, seam side down, ina single layer; top with five more. Cover with 1 cup of sauce; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered ½ hour, or until bubbly.
If you'd like some hands-on experience making homemade pasta, join us for an upcoming Pasta Workshop class. We have a few spots left in Sunday's class at Lincoln Square, so grab one now! If you can't make it this weekend, we have lots of other sessions of this class offered at both locations, so peruse our class calendar for the best fit for your schedule.
We even have a Pasta Boot Camp for you diehard pasta enthusiasts like me!