One of our family favorites, pre becoming a gluten-free household, was manicotti: large tender pasta tubes stuffed with ricotta cheese, to which I always added sausage. Manicotti pasta is made of wheat, so bye-bye a pet casserole, cooked for company and family dinners. Did I mention that leftovers are great?
Then along came my recent recipe for Real French Crepes, Gluten Free and, much like in a cartoon, a little light bulb of inspiration lit up my brain: why not manicotti crepes? So I pulled a big batch of gluten-free crepes out of the freezer (notice how I put in a subliminal plug for freezing crepes?) and revised my original recipe.
This makes a huge casserole, good for family dinners and leftovers, great for company dinners and buffets. Some preparation tips follow.
First, be sure to break the Italian sausage into small pieces before cooking. Big pieces make the filling lumpy and can break the tender crepes.
Poach the sausage, starting with cold water, until it is cooked through, then drain. Then brown. The poaching makes for tender texture and less fat.
Spread the filling out in a horizontal line, as evenly as possible, on the bottom third of each crepe. This makes rolling more uniform.
Roll compactly, without breaking the crepes, so the baked manicotti are nice and firm.
Use a smooth, not a chunky, marinara sauce for topping.
And, most important, just like lasagna, let the baked manicotti rest for 10 minutes before serving. Gently run a long spatula between the manicotti, then lift out onto a plate using the same long spatula.
As we say in Italian: Buon Appetito! Enjoy your meal.
- 12 Gluten-Free French Crepes
- 1 pound (about 2 cups) ricotta cheese or nondairy alternative such as Better Than Cream Cheese
- 4 ounces (about 1 cup) grated mozzarella or nondairy alternative
- 1 cup grated Parmesan or nondairy alternative
- ½ cup chopped Italian parsley
- 2 eggs
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 pound mild Italian sausage, if links, casings removed
- 3 cups (or 1 24-ounce jar) smooth (not chunky) marinara sauce
- Parmesan, as needed, for topping, optional
- In a large bowl combine eggs, cheese, parsley, and salt. Mix well. Reserve.
- In a large skillet, using a potato masher, break sausage into small pieces. Cover with cold water; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat and simmer until sausage is cooked through. Drain sausage in a fine mesh sieve. Return sausage to skillet and brown over medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, heat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9 by 12 by 2-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- Add sausage to cheese mixture and stir to mix well.
- Place a scant 1/3 cup of filling on the bottom third of a crepe. Roll compactly and place in pan seam side down. Repeat with remaining 11 crepes, spraying between each crepe with nonstick cooking spray to prevent sticking. Arrange crepes in pan placing 10 horizontally and the remaining 2 along the side vertically.
- Cover the crepes with marinara sauce and sprinkle lightly with additional Parmesan if desired.
- Bake until cooked through and bubbling, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven. Let rest for 10 minutes before separating crepes with a thin spatula and serving.
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