I don’t remember my mother ever preparing Cannelloni or Manicotti for us while living at home perhaps being the reason that I really didn’t know the difference between the two. I’ve been guilty of using the terms interchangeably when in fact they have distinct differences affecting their texture and taste.
Recently I discovered there has been more Manicotti than Cannelloni prepared in my kitchen throughout the years. Regardless, they are equally delicious.
The word Cannelloni roughly translates as “big tubes” and can be purchased in the dry pasta aisle of most grocery stores. Homemade sheets of pasta can also be filled, rolled up and baked in a tomato or béchamel sauce. Manicotti, loosely translated as “sleeves” are very thin crepes most times filled with a ricotta mixture, rolled up then baked in tomato sauce.
Even though the ingredients used to make both home made Cannelloni dough and Manicotti crepes are the same consisting of flour, oil and eggs they are distinctive dishes with unique flavours and textures made in totally different ways. In my opinion, the store bought variety should only be used in a pinch; if you have tasted home made you will understand why.
Because of the delicate nature of the crepes, a smooth, light ricotta filling works best whereas a more hearty meat filling works well in the store bought or home made pasta sheets.
It’s really not as complicated as it may sound. After choosing which one appeals to you most, a little organization and the anticipation of a wonderfully delicious meal is enough motivation to give at least one of the two a try.
What can taste better than home made Cannelloni or Manicotti? Provided you have any leftovers they are even more delicious warmed up the next day!
These are quite easy to make but on your first try to make them they might not turn out as round as you would like them to be. Not to worry, once the filling is put on them and rolled up they could even be square and no one else will be the wiser. The important part is to make them as thin as you can.
3 large eggs
¾ cup water
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
¾ cups flour
- Beat eggs then add salt and oil.
- Gradually add the flour until well incorporated. (adding the flour before the water avoids a lumpy batter)
- Continue beating while gradually pouring in the water until a smooth, liquid batter is achieved.
- Heat a 6 inch skillet over medium heat and lightly brush with an oil dampened paper towel.
- Pour 2 tablespoons of batter in the center of the pan turning the pan to cover the bottom.
- Cook until firm and dry, golden but not brown. (Touch the top of the crepe with a finger, if it's no longer sticky, it's ready.) Do not turn to cook other side.
- Remove from pan, cool then stack between wax paper that has been sprinkled with a little flour to prevent sticking.
- Wrap and freeze if not using the same day.
- Makes 12 to 14 crepes.
about 1 ½ pounds ricotta cheese
salt and pepper to taste
about ½ cup grated parmiggiano or favourite cheese
finely chopped fresh, Italian parsley.
- Mix all ingredients together until smooth.
ready made crepes
mozzarella strips (optional)
meat or marinara sauce, enough to cover manicotti. Sauce should be a little loose in consistency since it will continue to cook and thicken in the oven
shredded mozzarella (to sprinkle on top)
finely chopped fresh parsley
- Spread the cooked crepes out on a flat surface cooked side down.
- Place equal amounts of filling lengthwise in the middle of each crepe.
- Add a strip of mozzarella in the center (optional but delicious)
- Fold in the sides over the filling then starting at the bottom side roll up to make a cylinder shape.
- Ladle some tomato sauce in the bottom of a baking dish large enough to accommodate the filled crepes.
- Place the crepes in the baking dish leaving just a little space in between each crepe to allow for expansion.
- Cover the crepes with tomato sauce then cover pan with foil wrap and bake at 375 degrees F. for 35 to 40 minutes.
- Add a sprinkle of shredded mozzarella during the last 10 minutes of baking.
- Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes to settle.
- Sprinkle fresh chopped parsley and serve with extra sauce if desired.
Notes, Tips and Suggestions
- Marinara sauce works well but a tasty meat sauce works even better.
- Assemble and bake Manicotti the day before and warm up just before serving, absolutely delicious.
- Adding the shredded mozzarella towards the end of baking time makes sure it remains soft and stringy.
- Cannelloni can be also filled with the ricotta filling.
- Make ricotta spinach filling by adding some cooked spinach to the ricotta. (make sure to squeeze as much moisture as you can out of the spinach before adding.)
- Use of a piping bag and large round tip makes filling the crepes very easy and less messy.
- Although the Manicotti crepes are traditionally just rolled and baked , folding in the sides before rolling keeps all of that delicious filling exactly where it should be...inside.
- Of all the dry Cannelloni shells available on the market , the thin precooked tubes in my opinion are best. Just fill with a favourite filling, completely cover with a thin consistency tomato sauce and bake.