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JOHN ROSS PHOTO | Julie Vergari inside her Mattituck kitchen

There is nothing warmer and more enjoyable than spending a Sunday afternoon with an Italian-American family that loves to cook, wrote North Fork Chef columnist John Ross in this week’s issue of The Suffolk Times. 

On a recent visit to the home of Joe and Julie Vergari in Mattituck, he was asked to join them in making Julie’s homemade version of manicotti.

He made sure he left with the recipe, so he could share it with all of you.

You can read the full column, which also includes a seafood fra diavlo recipe, by clicking here.



Begin by making the meat sauce. Place a Dutch oven or heavy casserole on high heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add 1 pound of sweet Italian sausage, cook until brown and remove. Add 1/2 pound of country-style pork ribs and 1/2 pound of beef short ribs, cook until brown on all sides and remove.

Reduce the heat and add 1 chopped onion and 6 whole cloves of garlic. When the onion is soft, add 4 large (28-ounce) cans of whole Italian tomatoes in puree. Bring this mixture to a boil and simmer at low heat. Break up the tomatoes with a hand-held immersible blender or a wooden spoon and add back the sausage and the ribs to flavor the sauce.

While the sauce is simmering, assemble the meatballs by combining 1 pound of ground meatloaf mix (beef, pork, veal) with 1 cup bread crumbs, 1/2 cup milk, 1 egg and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Form golf ball-size meatballs and drop them into the simmering sauce. Let the sauce simmer for 1 hour.

Make the manicotti fi lling by combining 1 large container of part-skim ricotta (I recommend Biazzo) with 1 pound shredded mozzarella and 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Stir in 1 large egg and 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley.

Make the crêpes by whisking 3 cups milk, 2 eggs and 2 cups fl our to form a thin batter. Heat two 8-inch sauté pans and spray with no-stick. Ladle in about 1/4 cup of batter and swirl it around the pan. When it starts to bubble, turn it with a rubber spatula, cook briefl y and remove. Repeat this process in both pans, stacking the crêpes on a paper towel-lined plate.

To assemble the manicotti, line a roasting pan with 1 cup of sauce. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the ricotta fi lling into the center of each crepe, then fold one side over the other to make a compact roll. Place the filled manicotti in the roasting pan. When the pan is full, ladle a little more sauce over them, cover with foil and bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes.

Remove the pork and beef ribs from the sauce, check for seasoning and serve the sauce and meatballs and sausage with the manicotti.

Makes about 24 manicotti.