Christmas Manicotti

published Dec 17, 2021
Christmas Manicotti Recipe

This comforting, extra-cheesy casserole relies on tender crêpe shells rather than store-bought pasta.

Serves6 to 8

Prep40 minutes

Cook1 hour

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christmas manicotti in a baking dish on marble
Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

In my family, stuffed shells are a Christmas dish. Holiday manicotti came about at the behest of my grandfather and uncle, who found turkey to be too dry and ham to be too basic. Plus, there’s something rather Christmas-y about manicotti: the bright red sauce, the sprinkled, snow-fallen Pecorino Romano, the wreath-like parsley.

This recipe will surely fill every red sauce lover’s deepest desire, and offers an alternative to more traditional holiday fare. Gather your family members to help make the crepes and roll them up, then delight in the cheesy comfort of the final baked dish.

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

I’m not going to lie: making manicotti is a process. Homemade manicotti shells, which are essentially soft, buttery crepes, are a non-negotiable. The good news is you can make them up to a day in advance, giving you a head-start day-of.

With that said, feel free to start with store-bought ricotta and jarred marinara (or your family’s own red sauce, if you have some on hand). And to really get ahead, you can assemble the entire dish the day before. When you’re ready to serve, bake until the cheese on top is melted and the sauce is bubbling, then broil until browned in spots.

Christmas Manicotti Recipe

This comforting, extra-cheesy casserole relies on tender crêpe shells rather than store-bought pasta.

Prep time 40 minutes

Cook time 1 hour

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the filling and sauce:

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 16 ounces

    fresh mozzarella cheese (not low-moisture)

  • 1 1/2 ounces

    Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (1/2 cup), plus more for garnish

  • 1 1/2 ounces

    Parmesan cheese, finely grated (1/2 cup)

  • 6 to 8 sprigs

    fresh parsley

  • 3 cups

    whole-milk ricotta cheese

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1

    (about 24-ounce) jar marinara sauce, or 3 cups homemade, divided

  • 1/4 cup

    water

For the crêpe “shells”:

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 1 1/2 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 6

    large eggs

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 1/2 cups

    water

  • Cooking spray

Instructions

Make the filling:

  1. Beat 2 large eggs in a medium bowl until broken up.

  2. Drain and grate 16 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese on the large holes of a box grater (about 4 cups). Transfer half to the bowl of eggs and reserve the remaining for sprinkling on top.

  3. Grate the following on the small holes of a box grater and add both to the bowl of eggs: 1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup) and 1 1/2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese (about 1/2 cup). Grate more Pecorino for garnish and refrigerate.

  4. Pick the leaves from 6 to 8 fresh parsley sprigs until you have 3 tablespoons, then coarsely chop the leaves. Add 2 tablespoons to the bowl of eggs and refrigerate the remaining for garnish.

  5. Add 3 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper to the eggs and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Meanwhile, make the manicotti “shells.”

Make the crêpe “shells”:

  1. Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a microwave or on the stovetop.

  2. Place 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 6 large eggs, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine. While whisking constantly, slowly pour in 1 1/2 cups water. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the butter and whisk until combined and smooth. Don’t overbeat; the batter shouldn’t be too frothy.

  3. Coat a 10-inch nonstick frying pan with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup of the batter and immediately pick up the pan and swirl it so the batter evenly coats the bottom. Cook until the top is mostly set, 1 to 2 minutes. Slide a spatula underneath and flip it over. Cook until the second side is set, about 20 seconds more (they will not brown much).

  4. Slide the crêpe onto a plate. Repeat cooking the remaining batter, stirring the batter and coating the pan with cooking spray before each one. Stack the crêpes directly on top of each other. You should have 12 to 15 crêpes. Let sit at room temperature to cool slightly, then refrigerate until ready to assemble.

Assemble and bake:

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF.

  2. Position a broiler-safe 9x13-inch baking dish with a long side closer to you. Add 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce and 1/4 cup water and spread it around until it thinly coats the bottom.

  3. Fill the manicotti: Spread 1/4 of the filling across the center of a crêpe, going all the way to the sides. Roll it up tightly, folding in the ends as you go, like a burrito. Place vertically seam-side down in the baking dish against the left side.

  4. Repeat filling the remaining crêpes until you run out of crêpes or filling, arranging them snugly next to the first manicotti until you reach the right side. Arrange the remaining manicotti horizontally against the bottom of the baking dish (they will be very tightly packed). Spoon the remaining 2 1/2 cups marinara sauce over the manicotti in an even layer. Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese.

  5. Bake uncovered until the cheese on top is melted and the sauce is bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil until browned in spots, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the reserved parsley and Pecorino before serving.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The manicotti can be assembled up to 1 day ahead. Cover the baking dish and refrigerate until ready to bake. Let the baking dish sit out while the oven heats, then bake uncovered until the cheese on top is melted and the sauce is bubbling, about 45 minutes. Broil as directed.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated tightly wrapped in plastic wrap or in an airtight container for up to 3 days.