Manicotti is a traditional dish for many Italian American families Christmas Day. I must admit that I have only attempted to make these one time but they homemade manicotti are better than any other version and well worth the effort involved. I am very pleased to give to you two stories and two recipes from my friends Nancy and Elizabeth.
This is Nancy’s story:
I finally did it!! I got my pictures & recipe all together for you.
My mother in law Jean Jerome was a wonderful woman & a very good Italian cook. She just cooked simple recipes on every holiday but Christmas she made her homemade manicottis & pizzelles. We all looked forward to Christmas dinner. My son & his girlfriend decided to go out & spend the day with her & learn how to make her gravy & manicottis. When she passed away Laurie would not let us have Christmas dinner unless we made them so Tim started making them. Now he & his wife live in Chicago & usually spend Thanksgiving with us. While they are here they make the Christmas manicottis.
And now Elizabeth’s story:
The Mangino Family Manicotti Recipe
Thinking back for many decades, I recall my mother (German/Czechoslovakian born Elizabeth Anne Leibold who married into a huge Italian family in 1921) preparing the Mangino family manicotti recipe over the course of two days. It was the extended family’s Christmas dinner tradition – at least as the second of four courses – and the crepes had to be paper thin, so much so that we could almost see through them. Here is a list of the recipe ingredients, jotted down in my awkward printing in 1974, while my mother shared them with me.
The goal was to get as close to a yield of 50 crepes per recipe as possible. As far as I know, my mom was the only one to achieve that goal! She prepared the batter and made the crepes after dinner on December 30. Then she made the cheese filling and tomato sauce, and assembled the manicotti on Christmas eve afternoon, arranging them in large baking dishes to be refrigerated until they were placed in the oven Christmas afternoon. They were the crown jewel in my mother’s Italian culinary repertoire.
We started our annual Christmas Day feast with shrimp cocktail and liverwurst on crackers with mustard (an Eastern European must for a Leibold), then moved on to the dining room table for our traditional antipasti.
The first time I attempted to make the Mangino Family Manicotti Recipe, the recipe yielded a grand total of 13 crepes. Needless to say, not only were they not eaten; they also were NOT memorialized in a photo! Many years later my husband Todd the “wannabee” Italian tried making the recipe. Having the patience of a saint and a penchant for perfection, he succeeded in making ~ 40 crepes. Over the years, his best yield has been 48. And because Todd became such a crepe master, manicotti became our immediate family Christmas dinner tradition as well. I remember the first time our granddaughter Cameron tasted them, she announced they were her new preferred birthday dinner!
Fast forward to the Christmas of 2020, in the middle of the pre-vax, COVID government shutdown. Todd and I, along with our two sons and their families were all too afraid to gather as we usually did. So Todd and I decided to take our show on the road and gave birth to the Mangino/Wallace Meals on Wheels program. Here is a photo of Todd preparing 72 manicotti for delivery on Christmas morning to Heath, Trish, Cameron & Connor in New Hope, and Chad, Mary, Dylan and Mia in Yardley. We visited on their outdoor patios, exchanged gifts, delivered the manicotti, then arrived back home to enjoy them ourselves – alone at our dining room table.
So, this is the story of the Mangino Family Manicotti Recipe. It continues to delight many generations, across multiple culinary backgrounds, not only with it’s delicious flavors, but also with the love and joy that go into making it.
Merry Christmas, everyone. And HUGE THANKS to Bernadette for providing this platform to share our stories, recipes and remembrances.
Oil a 6” non-stick skillet and heat up over medium heat. You will not have to oil it again.
Spoon 1 ½ to 2 oz of the batter into the skillet, tilting the pan several times until the entire bottom is covered with the batter.
Flip the crepe over once you see air bubbles forming on the top and the edges beginning to curl.
Each crepe should take no more than 2 minutes total.
In looking over both of these recipes I realized that the directions were for the crepes themselves but not for the baking of them in the oven. So, this is what I do. In order for the flavor of all you hard work to shine, make a quick marinara sauce. Lightly put the marinara on the bottom of you dish and then fill with your manicotti. Lightly cover the top of the manicotti and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven covered with foil for 20 minutes. Uncover the manicotti and then check after 10 minutes to see if they are cooked through. Remove from the oven and enjoy!