I’m no food blogger, but…

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life70 Comments

I want to share a very cherished recipe with you today, one I’ve been making since I was about 19 and the very first thing I learned to make (following a few disastrous forays into the lasagne realm when I was in high school.) Of course, there’s a story behind this dish. Shall I?

In 1984, I graduated from Cascade High School in Everett, Washington. To mark the occasion, one of my closest friends invited us over to her parents’ home for a celebratory dinner, grown-up style. We had amazing dinner music (This Mortal Coil), wine glasses—with no alcohol, of course—and the most delicious Italian dish I’d never before tasted: manicotti. Or, as the New Jersey Italians apparently called it, “Manigot.”

I remember during this meal of really being aware that some form of adulthood was just around the corner. I’d spent the latter part of my senior year immersed in the new and exciting world of new wave and in just a few months, I’d be diving headlong into college and the Seattle scene. My friends would also be going off in their own directions. It was exciting if not a little bittersweet.

After the meal, I begged my girlfriend’s mother for the recipe. She explained that though she wasn’t Italian in the least, her ex-husband was and that she had learned to make this years before in accordance with any Italian housewife worth her salt in the kitchen.

She shared the recipe with me and it has been one that I’ve trotted out over the years when I wanted a dish that would a) impress and b) taste amazing pretty much every single time.

It’s funny, because years ago this seemed like such an undertaking to create. But I’ve recently brought it back into my repertoire, realizing how simple and basic this dish is. In a sense, I’ve demystified it in the past few months, and it’s a good thing, too: my entire family eats it and likes it.

The other thing I love about this recipe is the ingredients are anything but extraordinary. They are simple and you can find them at any store. Yes, a little elbow grease is required to make the sauce and the pasta, but I promise you the results will be a melt in your mouth culinary delight.

We start with the ingredients for the sauce:


1 can tomato sauce (32 ounce can)
1 can tomato puree (32 ounce can)
1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounce can)
2 cans tomato paste
7-10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 8-0z. packages mushrooms (finely chopped, baby bellas or buttons work well)
olive oil

This sauce is so simple! You chop up your mushrooms into a small dice. Then you heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat and toss ’em in. Sprinke in pepper and salt to taste (1/2 tsp of each), then throw in the garlic. Next, add in all of the cans of sauces and pastes. Stir and then I always add a cup and a half of water to thin it out a bit. I usually just fill the bigger cans with some water to help get all of the sauces out of the cans, then pour them into the pot.

Next, you cover the surface with a light coating of oregano, stir in it well, then cover with another thin layer of oregano, turn the heat to low, cover and simmer. All day long.

What if you or your kids don’t like mushrooms? You can do what I do. I strain a little of the sauce to make a small pan of no-mushroom manigot. Or, you can just enjoy it because honestly, it doesn’t come off as a mushroom-y sauce. Trust me.

Keep on low, stirring throughout the day. Enjoy how good your house smells during the process.


Next up, the manigot themselves. The shells are actually just crepes. Just flour, eggs, milk and oil.

3 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 cups milk
2 T vegetable oil

Combine adding milk and flour alternately and beat until you have a smooth, thin creamy mixture. (I use a hand mixer.) Add a few tablespoons of water to ensure it is thin enough to easily spread out on a hot griddle. (I end up adding 4 to 6 tablespoons of water to make the consistency a bit thinner. Or even a few more tablespoons of milk.) If you have time, put the batter in the fridge to let it rest for up to an hour.

To make the crepes, use a griddle or crepe pan. Heat to medium/medium high to start. Oil the pan and pour about 1/4 cup of the batter onto the pan, tilting the pan to create a large, thin crepe. The thinner the better. The goal is to create a 6-inch or so crepe, and not to overcook it. Trim off any excess of the crepes that come from the pouring and pan tilting motion. Lightly grease the pan before making each crepe. Store them between sheets of wax paper so they won’t dry out while cooking. Make as many as your batter allows for. Mine usually makes between 20 and 25, which is more than you will need.

part skim milk ricotta cheese (two small containers or one large)
2 – 3 teaspoons dried parsley (I omit this for my picky kids)
2 cups shredded mozerrella
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (freshly grated)

Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl, and mix well. I usually include around 1/4 cup of the freshly grated parmesan in the mixture, saving more for sprinkling on top once the pans are assembled.
Take one of the crepes and about 3 to 4 spoonfuls of the ricotta mixture into the center of the crepe and roll up like a burrito. Repeat.


I use two 9 x 13 glass Pyrex casserole pans to assemble the dish. Ladle a generous amount of sauce in the pans. Lay in the manigot. Cover with more sauce and spread around to cover the exposed pasta areas. Sprinkle with parmesan, cover with foil and place into a 375 degree oven.

Cook for 25 minutes covered, then take off the foil and cook for another 15 for a total of around 40 minutes. The pans should be bubbling.

Now this is a horrible shot, taken after the sun set in my incandescently lit kitchen, but you get the idea.


The surprising thing is that each manigot comes out to about 150 calories, and a scoop of the sauce around 50. It’s not as high calorie as you’d think. That’s just a bonus.

I love this dish for its taste and the memories it evokes each time I smell the sauce and with each bite that melts in my mouth.

It reminds me adulthood is just around the corner.

Happy cooking.

Here is a downloadable PDF of the recipe:

Download Manigot


Cathy ZielskeI’m no food blogger, but…

70 Comments on “I’m no food blogger, but…”

  1. #1

    This looks so yummy, thanks for the story and the recipe. I remember my mom finally showing me how to make lasagna and how I think of her each time I make it.

    Have a great week!

  2. #5
    Jill Broyles

    you are so incredibly wonderful to not only give us a great recipe, but even put out a pdf to print. I am off to spill tomato sauce on my new recipe. Thanks Jill B

  3. #8

    On my way to the grocery store for the ingredients now to make this for tonight! No school today so this will be perfect to make! Thanks Cathy!

  4. #9
    Jennifer Levin

    Love this story, and the dish looks amazing! I can’t wait to try it! Best of all…the PDF. Thanks! Hey, it’s the little things that excite me. Have a great week! ~Jen

  5. #10

    Looks delish, CZ! Thanks for sharing the recipe. One of my MMEW goals is to cook healthy for my family (I’m SO not a cook) and I think this recipe will be perfect to try.

  6. #11
    K Hogarth

    MMMM. Sounds delicious. I wish my husband liked cheese. I wish my kids ate something besides chicken nuggets, hot dogs and pizza. If I made this, I would be eating the entire pan…so I will just have to imagine how it tastes.

  7. #17

    WOW WOW WOW!!!!! Who knew you were a This Mortal Coil fan. Love love love their music. So I thought I’d click your link and see what album you were referring to. And there popped up my favourite track. So many atmospheric nights I’ve spent with this on in the background. I can’t tell you the weird joy from discovering someone you follow online, and whom you have great respect for, adding a link to your own personal tracks of your life. Cathy you never cease to amaze and delight me. You’ve made my day. And thanks for the opportunity to hear “My Father” whilst I’m (supposedly) working 🙂 x

  8. #18

    Regardless of the calorie number there is no way I can attempt this dish because of the CARB numbers. Do you know what those are?? 🙂

  9. #19

    Definitely something we will try, looks great! I have 2 kids that won’t eat ricotta cheese though, something about white cheese….i give up sometimes. Do you think I could substitute something else for it? They won’t eat cottage cheese either!

  10. #21
    kim smart

    looks and sounds delicious!! might have to give this a try even though i’m definitely not the greatest cook, lol!

  11. #22

    I’ve been searching for a good sauce recipe so I’ll just have to try this one next. It looks fabulous! I think I’ll surprise my hubby with the Manigot (yes, we are from Jersey and he’s Italian!) for his birthday. Thank you for this recipe!

  12. #23

    Thank you for the pdf file! You’re the best 🙂 The sauce is just like my mom’s but I have never made the pasta or this dish. I am so excited to make this!

  13. #24

    Mark, do you cook? Should I know this about you? I think you, Cookie and Beck would all love this. It makes you feel old, wise and Italian. And who doest want that?

  14. #25

    Paul, so get this: I never knew Song to the Siren was a cover. i thought it was a This Mortal Coil song. So fast forward until I meet my present day hubby and he makes a mix for me with the Tim Buckley version, and my jaw dropped. (I prefer the TMC version still.) That said, we had it sung at our wedding. Ha! I loved that album and My Father, oh my God, you know it was credited to a singer named Alison Limerick and for years I thought it was Alison Moyet moonlighting, but… apparently I was wrong.

    I love This Mortal Coil. Best dinner music ever. xo.

  15. #27

    18g of carb per manigot. Which if you compare that to some things, its not horrific! : )
    The sauce is 5.5 g per half cup of sauce.

  16. #30
    Cheryl L

    I don’t make manicotti much because I HATE stuffing the shells!!! They usually fall apart and split…but by making the crepes it would be painless. Thank you for sharing.

  17. #31
    Kim L

    Thank you for the pdf file. I have never tried my own sauce before – you have given me hope!

  18. #32
    lynne moore

    Do you know if these can be made ahead and frozen? Either before or after baking? I was wondering if the crepes would hold up…

  19. #33

    I have made them the day before, and simply put the manigot in the fridge, and assembled the next day, but I have never frozen them.

  20. #34

    This looks TERRIFIC!!! Mouth watering here also….can’t wait to give it a try. Thanks for sharing.

  21. #35

    Not Cathy (obviously) but we freeze uncooked & cooked homemade lasagna all the time & it heats or cooks up fabulously. You could experiment with a small dish of these to see if they’d work—then you won’t waste much if it doesn’t! Good luck!

  22. #36

    Thanks for the recipe & story! Can’t wait to try this dish – we have a terrific lasagna we make all the time from a recipe of my Mom’s (we even gave precooked cut up & frozen squares of it to my older bachelor brother for Christmas – best gift ever he says!)

  23. #37

    that sauce looks to die for! i’m putting this on the menu for this week. but probably cheating and using store-bought noodles. thanks cathy!

  24. #38
    Barb in AK

    Looks yummy! As you gave directions for the sauce, it sounded so much like my spaghetti sauce—sans the mushrooms, add the ground beef. It will only taste the best if it cooks ALL day 🙂 That’s the secret!
    I’ve learned to appreciate mushrooms a bit better since then. Thanks for sharing the recipe, Cathy. I’ll be passing it on, too!

  25. #39

    I have never seen manicotti made with crepes before. I am completely fascinated. I always assumed that restaurants were using sheets of fresh pasta, but the crepes make more sense. I made a huge pot of sauce yesterday, so I’m going to improvise a filling, add bechamel, and make manicotti crepes very soon.

  26. #40

    I made these for dinner tonight and they were fabulous! It is just me and my husband so I froze the extras. I have had good luck with frozen lasagna so I’m hoping these heat well also!

  27. #43

    I first heard the album at a party. It was late, lots of alcohol had been consumed (I was driving so I remained sober) & the host suggested we all lie down on the floor and we had to rest our head on someone’s stomach (I know how weird it sounds haha). So there we were, about thirty of us, covering the whole lounge floor, like some weird snake creature. The lights went off, & on came Tarantula, followed by My Father. Talk about goose bumps! I bought the album the very next day. Over the years, friends have buried their head in my shoulder and poured out their troubles and I simply put the album on in the background. It’s definitely profound mood music. And normally I’m a tacky pop fan. Give me a Kylie track anyday. But sometimes, I do actually give myself a dose of properly cool music haha.

  28. #44

    I know! It’s interesting. I wouldn’t be giddy if I found out you liked the same TV show, or were reading a book I was into. But music! It’s a different story. Now It’s nothing like This Mortal Coil but it’s also an the 4AD label & came out at about the same time, is another band called Colourbox. Try Keep Me Hanging on as a starter (because you’ll recognise the tune, being that it’s a cover) but then try Moon Is Blue. Here’s a link…

    And if it helps, lie on the floor with your head on Dan’s stomach. lol. Px

  29. #46

    And Arena – (for the heartbroken)…

    – heck it would be easier to tell you to listen to the whole album haha. Sorry for all the links. Gotten myself in a nostalgia loop haha. Px

  30. #48

    Well it should not freak you out that Dan LOVED Colourbox in their day. I think he has one or two albums of theirs. And Im sure he would like it very much if we layed on the floor! LOL!

  31. #49

    Thanks for the CARB info. and yes, that’s pretty good considering it’s a pasta dish!! 🙂

  32. #50

    Haha It’s prob a bit late in the day to tell you that Dan is definitely a keeper then purely on his music tastes lol.

  33. #51

    Looks delicious cant wait to cook it.
    Can you tell me the size of the tins of tomato paste and also the mushroom weight/amount if possible.

  34. #54

    Dear Cathy,
    thanks for the receipe! I am italian but we use the word manicotti to indicate a type of pasta rather than a receipe so I really enjoyed to learn something new! thanks!!

    I am just curious, how can you calculate the amount of calories per portion or the carb numbers in a receipe?


    p.s. if anyone need italian food suggestions…here I am! ^^

  35. #55

    Flavia, I enter the recipe into an app called Lose It which takes all ingredients and measurements, divides them by the servings and gives me a calorie count per serving!

  36. #56
    Karen Lazar

    I made your sauce today. The house smelled wonderful and my daughter loved it (and she does not eat mushrooms, but I didn’t tell her what was in it…) I loved it too. Now I have tons left over and I am freezing it in zip lock bags. Thanks so much – you are right, the house smelled divine all day). Next I want to learn how to make spaghetti squash instead of pasta.

  37. #59

    So excited to try this. THIS WEEKEND. My college roommate was Italian, and she cooked the most amazing sauces. I’ve gotten lazy, and the store stuff just ain’t the same. Thank you for inspiring me, in so many ways. (And I won’t tell my family about the mushrooms, either!!)

  38. #60
    Sharon F. in CA

    OOOhhhh, Cathy. Love this. I used to make a dish called crepes lasagna…very same recipe only I added sweet italian sausage and linguicia as the filling along with some cheese. Yours is much simpler and love the calorie count…I will give it a try. I can attest, that the crepes may seem hard, but once you get a rhythm are fun to make.

  39. #61

    Thanks for this recipe – it sounds so yummy and I love the lower calories! Thanks also for making it into a PDF. 🙂

  40. #62

    I am using your recipe for a cooking contest at work next week. I don’t have time for a test run so the pressure is on. I’m trusting your direction. 🙂 The “challenge ingredient” is cheese. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  41. #66
    debbie McIntyre

    I love to make crepes! I’m anxious to follow your manicotti recipe and try this out. I still love the stroganoff recipe you posted a couple years ago. Thanks for today’s post. With the frigid temps I’m seeing in MN, you surely must be needing all the comfort food you can get your hands on. Stay cozy.

  42. #68
    Karen Kelly

    Did anyone ever report back on whether or not the Manigot freezed well? I am curious. I could cut the recipe in half or set half aside and freeze it….hmmmm….

  43. #70

    Try it with fresh parsley instead of dried. Dried parsley is awful—most good cooks never ever use it!

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