Manti is sort of the Middle Eastern answer to the Ravioli. It's one of those things that I've never made myself or even had at home. The only times I have ever had it was at a friend's house, and she had picked it up at one of the Armenian Church Bazaars.
When searching online to find a jumping off point, I realized that the Manti I was used to was only one version - a small dumpling simmered in chicken broth and served with yogurt over the top. I was very curious when I saw these little open-topped "canoe" shaped Manti and read about their being baked in a tomato/broth combination and topped with yogurt infused with garlic. Hmmmm, that sounds good! Guess I'll try both.
The filling in the various recipes was pretty standard - lamb, onion, salt, pepper, and usually allspice. The allspice was throwing me for some reason. The pasta, on the other hand, varied wildly - water, no water, 1 egg, 4 eggs, oil, no oil, butter, milk, garlic, etc. Never having made pasta at all, I had no idea what each might turn out like, so I scrambled them together and came up with my own. It worked out very well for the little canoes, but it was on the doughy side when it came to the simmered dumplings.
2 c flour
1 t salt
1/2 c water
3 T olive oil
1 lb ground lamb
1 large onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c minced roasted red pepper (I used jarred)
1/2 c fresh chopped parsley
2 T dried oregano
1 t lemon juice
dash of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
For the pasta, sift together the salt and flour. If making by hand, create a well in the center, add the egg, oil, and water, work it all together, and knead for about 10". I let the dough hook on the stand mixer do the work for me while I got started chopping. Well, I let it do the kneading part of the work anyhow. I don't have a pasta attachment, so I had to roll it myself. Heaven forbid!! 😮 When the 10" are up, cover the dough and set it aside to rest for 40-60".
For the filling, drizzle a little olive oil in a pan, and when that gets hot, toss in the onion and garlic. Once the onions begin to sweat, add the roasted red pepper, lamb, oregano, cayenne, a little salt, and a healthy dose of black pepper (I love pepper). When the lamb is just about cooked through, add the parsley and lemon juice. As I always do when making anything with ground beef, I roll up a potholder and stick it under one side to drain the grease to the other side. That way, when I'm done, I can either pour it into an empty jar if I've got one stashed away under the sink, or let it cool until it gets solid and scoop it into the trash to spare the pipes from clogging.
Once your pasta has rested and the filling has cooled enough for you to handle it, roll out the pasta on a lightly floured surface and cut it into about 2" squares. I used a pizza wheel for cutting. Place a small amount of filling in the center of a square and fold the sides up so you can pinch one corner to the opposite corner, thus forming the "canoes."
I thought I might need to dab the edges with water to help them seal, but I didn't need to do that until I switched to the closed dumpling shapes. I was actually having a bit of a hard time with these because the filling was crumbly, so it wasn't staying in place when I was trying to pinch the sides. That reminded me that some of the recipes I was looking at had called for pre-cooking the filling, while others did not. I was starting to wonder if I had made the wrong decision - or if I should throw the whole thing in the food processor and puree it!!
Butter a baking dish and line up your canoes in sort of a honeycomb fashion. When they're all settled in, top each with a tiny dab of butter.
If you are not planning to use the whole batch, you can put some on a sheet pan in the freezer until they're hard, then scoop them into a zip-lock bag for future reference.
Pop the canoes in the oven at 350, and when they get a little brown on them (20-30"), stir some tomato paste into some chicken broth, pour it over the top and give them another 10-15". Most of the broth will be absorbed. For this small amount, I used 1c of broth and 1T tomato paste.
For the dumplings, bring some chicken broth to a boil, season with a bit of salt, and toss in the dumplings until cooked through. I had to guess because they were supposed to float to the top when they were done, but mine never sank to begin with. That being said, I'm not sure if that version seemed doughy to me because I didn't cook them for the correct amount of time or whether I was frustrated by the time I got to those and just didn't roll them out thin enough.
While whichever version (or both) is cooking, go ahead and stir a little garlic into some plain yogurt and let it sit out to come to room temp.
When the Manti is done, serve up a bowl with a little of the broth and then spoon some of the yogurt over the top.
So what's the bottom line? They were delicious, but I will definitely be leaving these to the church ladies! o be honest, those were the only five dumplings I rolled out. I was over it by then and put the rest of the filling in the freezer thinking I would roll it into phyllo triangles down the road and bake them. The "canoe" version was sooooo yummy, I'm re-thinking that now. NO, I won't be making the pasta again. What I will do is boil up some shells or manicotti, stuff those with the filling and proceed with the broth, tomato paste, yogurt, etc.
Next time I go to the Church Bazaar, I'm gonna have to tell those ladies to jack up their prices!! I just hope they have passed down the tradition to their kids so someone will still be around making them.