Cara's Cucina: Aunt Olga's Manicotti

Cara cooks up a delicious Italian dish this week in the Cucina.

Cara's Cucina

Cara's Cucina (Credit: News 12 New Jersey)

Ingredients:
Sauce:
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup onions finely chopped
- 1 clove pressed garlic
- 1 can (32 oz.) Italian plum tomatoes processed
- 1 can tomato paste (each can is 6 oz.)
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon black ground pepper
- 1 1/2 cups water

Manicotti:
- 6 whole eggs (room temperature)
- 1 1/2 cups sifted flour
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt

Filling:
- 2 lbs. ricotta cheese
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese (1/2 lb. grated)
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese grated
- 1 whole egg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (grated for sprinkle)

Instructions:
* Heat oil in 5 quart dutch oven or large pot. Saute onion and garlic for 4 min.
* Mash the undrained tomatoes with a fork or use a food mill and add that with the rest
of the ingredients & 1 1/2 cups of water.
* Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer mixture covered and stir occasionally for 1 hour.
* For a meat sauce: Brown 1 pound of ground beef and add to the sauce during the last 15
minutes of cooking.

Manicotti:
* In a medium bowl, combine the eggs and water, then sift in the flour with salt while mixing with an electric mixer to avoid clumps.
* Let the batter sit for at least 30 minutes uncovered on the counter, or you can cover and refrigerate overnight.
* On medium heat, spray a 3-5" skillet with oil. Pour 3 ounces of batter (5 tablespoons) in skillet rotating quickly to spread batter evenly over bottom of pan. Top should just get dry, but bottom is not brown (like making a crepe).
Place finished crepes on a dish. Continue cooling until all the batter is used. As manicotti cool, stack wax paper between them.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Filling:
* In a large bowl, mix ricotta, mozzarella, 1/3 cup of grated parmesan, egg, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix lightly to blend. Spread about a tablespoon of filling down the center of each manicotti and roll up.
* Spoon 1 1/2 cups of sauce into each of two 12x8x2 baking dishes.
*Place eight rolled manicotti, seamed side down, in a single layer: top with a second layer (optional). Spoon more sauce over top and sprinkle with mozzarella.
* Bake uncovered, 1/2 hour or until bubbly.

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