Manicotti with Ricotta Stuffing

A filling meal which needs no accompaniments, Manicotti with Ricotta Stuffing is an Italian dish which can be served, in smaller quantities, as a first course. Fresh sheets of uncooked pasta can be bought from most Italian delicatessens, but the home-made version is far superior.

8 oz. flour

1 teaspoons salt

3 eggs, lightly beaten

3 pints water

1 teaspoon butter

10 fl. oz. Coulis de Tomates Provencale, hot

2 oz. Parmesan cheese, finely grated

8 oz. ricotta cheese

2 thick ham slices, diced

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

First, make the pasta. Sift the flour and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the eggs.

Using your hands, gradually incorporate the flour into the eggs, mixing until they are well combined.

Shape the dough into a ball and turn it out on to a floured surface. Knead the dough for 10 minutes, or until it is smooth and firm. If the dough is not stiff enough, add a little more flour.

Divide the dough into four equal pieces and, with a floured rolling pin, roll out each piece until it is ½ inch thick. Cover the dough sheets with a clean cloth and set aside in a cool place for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, bring the water and the remaining salt to the boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to moderate.

Cut the pasta pieces into oblongs approximately 4- by 3-inches.

Drop half of the pasta oblongs into the boiling water and boil for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked and ‘al dente’ or just tender.

Remove the pan from the heat. With a slotted spoon, remove the pasta from the pan and set it aside to drain on a clean, damp cloth. Cook and drain the remaining pasta pieces in the same way.

With the teaspoon of butter, grease a medium-sized baking dish and set aside.

Preheat the oven to moderate 350 °F (Gas Mark 4, 180°C).

To make the filling, in a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the ricotta cheese, ham, egg, salt and pepper. Con-tinue beating until the mixture is smooth and well combined.

Lay the pasta pieces flat on a working surface. Spoon equal amounts of the filling on to each piece of pasta. With a flat-bladed knife, spread the filling evenly over the pasta, to the edges. Roll the pasta up, and place the rolls in the prepared baking dish.

Pour over the tomato sauce and sprinkle over the cheese. Place the dish in the centre of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and bubbling.

Remove the dish from the oven and serve immediately.

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