Holiday Chef Series: Al Lanza

We asked our chefs to share their holiday traditions and memories with us, and we’ve created a Holiday Chef Series from all of their submissions. Our series features family recipes, photographs, cherished moments, favorite holiday dishes, and more. We hope you enjoy!

 “When I was about 16-years-old, my grandmother shared this secret and rare recipe for making manicotti. She used “crepes” as opposed to the standard Northern Italian recipe which uses pasta sheets. This recipe has been a Christmas day tradition in my family for over 35 years.” – Al Lanza, North East Regional Chef

Lanza Family Manicotti (serves 6 people)


  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 tablespoon melted butter

Ricotta Filling

  • 36oz fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 1 head roasted garlic
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 24oz spinach, cooked and dry
  • nutmeg to taste
  • pepper flakes to taste

Marinara Sauce

  • 1 can #10 whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 head garlic, chopped
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Béchamel Sauce

  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • nutmeg to taste
  1. In a blender, combine all of the ingredients for crepes and pulse for 10 seconds.
  2. Place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for 1 hour. This allows the air bubbles to subside so the crepes will be less likely to tear during cooking. The batter will keep for up to 48 hours.
  3. While crepe batter is cooling, start making the ricotta filling and sauces.
  4. Combine all of the ingredients for the ricotta filling, mix well and set aside.
  5. For the marinara sauce, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 3 more minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and basil, cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.
  6. For the béchamel sauce, warm the milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. In a separate heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until it’s liquified. Add the onions and cook until translucent. With a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the melted butter/onion mixture, adding the flour a little bit at a time, creating a roux. Using a wire whisk, add the warm milk to the roux, whisking vigorously to avoid clumps. Add a pinch of nutmeg for taste, and stir into the béchamel sauce.
  7. Make crepes in an 8” omelet pan, mix should make 12 crepes.
  8. Spoon ricotta filling onto crepe and roll into manicotti shape.
  9. Top manicotti with both sauces and enjoy!