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Here's an easy recipe, contributed by granddaughter Jackie of mid-Florida, that's fun for children to make and highly nutritious, hitting several of the major food groups. 

Three-Cheese Manicotti with Spinach

14 to 16 oz bottled spaghetti sauce, OR 2 cups homemade spaghetti sauce
8 to 10 oz frozen chopped spinach
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz), divided
1 cup cream-style cottage cheese or ricotta cheese (8 oz)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup snipped parsley or 1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 T. onion flakes, or 1/4 chopped onion, lightly sautéed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
10 manicotti shells

Put a large pan of water on high heat.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a lasagna pan or other medium size flat pan or casserole dish with cooking spray, or oil lightly with olive oil.

Place frozen spinach in a glass dish in the microwave.  Nuke for 30 seconds at a time, stirring and feeling of spinach, until it is thawed.  Remove from microwave and squeeze it as dry as you can, a handful at a time, placing in a large bowl.  

When water boils, add manicotti shells and cook according to instructions on the package.

Add 2 eggs to the squeezed spinach and beat until well mixed.  Stir in 1 cup of shredded mozzarella, 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, the ricotta or cottage cheese, parsley, onion flakes and salt.   Stir to blend. 

When manicotti shells are done, drain them, cool them off in cold water, and drain again very well.   Be sure they are nearly dry.

Stuff shells with the cheese-spinach mixture and lay in the lasagna pan. 

If you are using the minced garlic, stir it into the spaghetti sauce.  Pour over the stuffed shells, then smooth it around with a spatula.   Sprinkle with the remaining cup of mozzarella cheese, then top with the 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese.

Bake, uncovered, at 25 to 35 minutes or until bubbly.  Makes 6 to 8 servings.


NOTE:   This recipe can be prepared low-fat and reduced calorie, and still retain most of the flavor:

  • Substitute low-fat or fat-free cheese for full-fat ones.

  • Substitute 4 egg whites for 2 whole eggs.

  • Use a low-fat or fat-free spaghetti sauce.

  • You may wish to use more herbs and garlic to compensate for the flavor provided by the fats.

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