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Recipe Spotlight: Mama Salamone’s Manicotti, Made with Portland’s Best

Portland, Oregon chef Don Salamone trained under multiple Michelin-starred chefs (think Joel Robuchon, Guy Savoy, Gordon Ramsay, and Michael Mina) before starting his own Italian-American pop-up this year. Stevens Italiano serves dishes inspired by Don’s family recipes, which originated in Sicily and Naples and evolved in Rochester, New York.

This manicotti recipe comes from Don’s mother, Angelina Salamone, who served the dish at every holiday dinner and for special Sunday suppers. It’s among the most frequently cooked recipes in the Salamone home.

Manicotti (“little sleeves” in Italian) is an Italian-American stuffed pasta dish, which can be made either with crepes (crespelle), as it is here, or with an extruded pasta tube. The noodles are typically stuffed with a ricotta-based filling. Technically pronounced “man-uh-COT-ee,” you’re likely to hear many Italian-Americans say “mon-uh-GOT.”

To prepare his mom’s manicotti – and all of his favorite recipes – Don relies on the highest quality purveyors in Portland. For sustainable meats and fish, he turns to Nicky USA, while Bartur Foods is his go-to for dry goods. Pacific Coast Fruit Company offers peak-season, market-fresh vegetables and fruits, plus dairy and eggs from some of the country’s best purveyors. For this recipe, he recommends eggs, dairy, and herbs from Pacific Coast (Belgioioso cheese are favorites); flour, olive oil, milk, tomatoes, and red pepper from Bartur; and sustainably raised veal from Nicky USA.  

Makes 24 manicotti

Mama Salamone’s Manicotti with Veal Ragu

For the crespelle (crepe) batter:
12 eggs
2 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 ¾ cups water

For the veal ragu:
¼ cup olive oil
2 onions, such as Walla Walla
6 cloves garlic, minced
Salt to taste
4 lb. ground veal
1 ⅓ cup white wine
1 ⅓ cup whole milk
1 28-oz. can peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand or pulsed in a food processor
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
Salt to taste

For the cheese filling:
3 lbs. ricotta cheese
4 eggs
½ lb. plus 2 oz. fresh grated mozzarella cheese
3 oz. fresh grated parmesan cheese, divided into 2 oz. and 1 oz.
¼ cup chopped mixed herbs (flat-leaf parsley and basil), 1 tablespoon reserved

Additional grated parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper for serving

To make the crespelle batter, beat eggs in a mixer until well combined, about four minutes. Keeping the mixer on a low speed, mix in the flour and salt until no lumps remain. Add the water, mixing slowly, until fully combined. Cover and let rest for two hours, chilled, to insure a crepe with no bubbles.

To cook the crespelle, preheat an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat for five minutes. Without using oil or spray, add 1 oz. crespelle batter to the pan and immediately swirl to cover the entire bottom of the pan. Cook until the batter is set, about 1 minute (crespelle should not brown). Remove crespelle from pan to cool. Repeat until all batter has been cooked.

To make the veal ragu, heat a heavy-bottomed sauce pot over medium heat and cook onions and garlic in olive oil. Season with salt. Increase heat to medium-high, and add 2 lbs. veal, cooking until the meat has browned. Reduce the heat to medium, add another 2 lbs. veal, and cook through (this batch does not need to brown). Season with more salt as needed. Add the wine, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan, and reduce the liquid by half. Add milk and cook until reduced and thick, stirring frequently. Add tomatoes and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 1 hour. Season to taste with salt and crushed red pepper.

To make the cheese filling, combine ricotta, eggs, ½ lb. mozzarella, 2 oz. parmesan, and all but 1 tablespoon of the herbs thoroughly in a bowl. Set additional cheese and herbs aside.

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the manicotti, spoon ¼ cup of the cheese mixture onto each cooled crespelle. Roll up each crespelle, jelly-roll style, and set aside.

Cover the bottoms of two 9x13-inch casserole dishes with veal ragu, and arrange the manicotti snuggly in rows. Add more ragu on top to barely cover the manicotti. Sprinkle reserved cheeses on top.

Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through cooking. Remove from the oven when the manicotti are browned and bubbling. Let cool slightly on a cooling rack, then sprinkle reserved chopped herbs on top. Serve, passing more grated parmesan, crushed red pepper, and extra veal ragu as needed.