Forget everything you think manicotti is. This crepe manicotti recipe is courteous of my mother-in-law and it's as authentic as manicotti can get. Homemade Italian crepes (crespelle) are wrapped around a creamy, rich ricotta cheese filling and covered with a blanket of the best meaty ground beef red sauce. If you have flour and milk, you can make homemade crepes for manicotti!
If you've been around here, you've heard me talk about my mother-in-law. She was a part Italian, part Bohemian. And the Italian in her made the best crepe manicotti with ricotta cheese.
One bite of this creamy ricotta cheese filled manicotti and you'll know what I mean.
The crepes are so light and delicate but firm enough to support the zesty meat sauce we are adding and the rich ricotta cheese filling.
p.s. If you love a good combo of meat and cheese, these meatball stuffed shells need to be in your rotation!
Is it manicotti or canneloni?
Well..it depends. Manicotti is cannelloni but cannelloni isn't manicotti.
Technically, manicotti is an Italian-American dish. Having spent a lot of time in Italy, I don't recall ever seeing manicotti on a menu in Italy (that's not to say you might find one in a touristy restaurant meant to make Americans feel more at home).
Cannelloni is what this filled pasta would be called in Italy and we'd associate as manicotti here.
Why make homemade crepes instead of pasta for manicotti
Believe it or not, homemade crepes not only taste better in manicotti than pasta tubes, but they're also easier.
- Less mess and easier to fill. Filling tubes of manicotti pasta shells isn't easy and it's darn messy, even with a pastry bag. Filling homemade crepes actually is simple because you just fold and roll them.
- Special touch. There's something perfectly lovely and special about hand-making anything, whether it be homemade pasta or these light crespelle wraps.
- Adds a elegant, delicate texture that feels good. Talk about a conversation starter! Your guests will be enamored with the flavor and texture of your manicotti.
Best crepe making pan
The best pan for making crepe-style manicotti is an 8" non-stick pan. I am a fan of the 8" Calphalon nonstick omelette pan and it works great for making these crepes. You could also try a designated crepe pan if you have one but make sure it's small or your manicotti will be pretty big.
Easy technique for making crepes for manicotti
Ok...let's get to making some manicotti crepes.
First thing, you'll do is mix your batter in a medium mixing bowl.
Simple, right? Especially because the batter is just 3 ingredients: eggs, milk and flour.
Manicotti meat sauce
We are tipping this classic on its head a bit and making it a little heartier by adding ground beef to my classic Italian red sauce recipe.
You could certainly leave it out if you prefer a vegetarian cheese manicotti.
Ricotta cheese filling for manicotti
Don't forget to add the fresh parsley! It adds so much flavor and freshness!
How to fill and assemble manicotti
We've made our crepes, sauce and filling. Time to make manicotti!
How to get the timing right
Click a tab below for help with timing this recipe to your needs!
Manicotti Filling Ideas
Spinach and ricotta manicotti. Finely mince a handful of fresh spinach leaves and add to the ricotta before filling.
Spicy Italian sausage. A combo of spicy Italian beef and sausage with red sauce will make a zippier dish for the heat lovers.
Storage and freezer tips
Storage. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Reheat. Place in an oven safe container and reheat at 350˚ for about 8-10 minutes until warmed through.
Freezer. I don't recommend freezing crepe manicotti as the moisture when defrosting will affect the quality of the dish when baked but if you give it a try, drop me a note and let me know!
Made this recipe?
I'd love it if you'd share your review and leave a star rating and comment!
Baked Ground Beef and Ricotta Crepe Manicotti (Crespelle)
- 8" omelette pan
For the ricotta cheese filling
For the red sauce
- 1 lb 80-85% ground beef, can use a combo of ground meat and pork
- 28 oz can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, see note
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped, ½ cup
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup red wine, optional - see note below
- 3 oz tomato paste, or ½ of a 6 oz can
- 2 teaspoon kosher salt, to start
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- crushed red pepper, to taste - try ¼ teaspoon to start if you like heat.
- water, as needed (in ¼ cup increments)
- fresh basil, optional
- 4 slices fresh mozzarella, for garnish
- sprinkle fresh parmesan cheese, grated
For the crepes
- Add the milk, flour and eggs together either in a bowl or blender and mix until smooth and there are no lumps.1 cup milk, 1 cup flour, 4 eggs
- Heat a small 8" omelette pan over medium low heat. Spray the pan with baking spray for a little insurance if you choose, but per my mother in law, do not use any grease or butter.
- Using a small ladle (¼ cup), spoon crepe batter into the center of the pan. Lift the pan and quickly rock and swirl the pan to fill the bottom of the pan with the batter. Allow to sit until the top of the crepe looks mostly dry.
- With either a rubber spatula or a small offset spatula (if your pan is suitable for metal utensils), loosen the edge of the crepe and carefully lift up as you work your way under the crepe.
- Flip the crepe and cook for five seconds or so and remove to a piece of parchment paper. Repeat with the rest of the batter. Allow crepes to cool before stacking on top of one another.
For the red sauce
- In the bottom of a large stock pot, heat a little olive oil and cook the ground meat until browned, about 8 minutes. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Set aside.1 lb 80-85% ground beef
- Place tomatoes in a blender with their juices and pulse until desired consistency reached.28 oz can whole peeled Italian tomatoes
- Heat olive oil in a 4qt. saucepan (or larger if doubling) over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent and rich in color, about 5 minutes. Briefly add garlic for 30 seconds until you smell it.2 Tablespoons olive oil, 1 medium onion, 2 cloves garlic
- Add red wine here, if desired. Cook for at least two minutes until wine is incorporated. See note below.½ cup red wine
- Reduce heat to medium-low and add tomato paste. Swirl around until softened and combined with onions about 2 minutes. Add spices ending with sugar and quickly combine because you don’t want the sugar to burn but to caramelize just a bit.3 oz tomato paste, 2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1 Tablespoon sugar, crushed red pepper
- Quickly add pureed tomatoes and simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes. Check the seasoning after 30 minutes or so. Add more salt/pepper or a little more sugar if the tomatoes are more on the acidic side.water
- Taste and adjust for seasoning.
- The sauce will thicken which is what you want. You are looking for a rich, red, sauce with kick-butt flavor. You can leave it as it and use it w/meat or as a pizza sauce.fresh basil
For the ricotta filling
- Mix the ricotta ingredients together and set aside. Taste and correct for seasoning.15 oz container of whole milk ricotta, 3-4 oz goat cheese, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 cup parmesan cheese, 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, half the zest of one lemon
Assemble and bake
- Preheat the oven to 350˚with a rack placed in the middle.Add a 1 cup of red sauce to the bottom of a rectangular or oval baking dish.
- Line the manicotti up across or down the pan making two rows. Top with another ladle or two of red sauce and then tear on some fresh mozzarella if desired. Sprinkle over freshly grated parmesan cheese.4 slices fresh mozzarella, sprinkle fresh parmesan cheese
- Bake for 40-45 minutes until puffed and golden. Serve with extra sauce and parmesan cheese.
About Lori Murphy
Lori has over 30 years in the food industry as a marketing strategist, culinary instructor and chef for three kids with discerning palates. As the chief content creator at Josie + Nina, Lori is dedicated to helping home cooks create food memories through fresh ingredients and Italian flavors.