Friday, June 8, 2012

Spinach and Cheese Manicotti

The above picture explains why I admire food stylists, food photographers, and all others earning a living making something like a pasta dish look appetizing in a picture.  This manicotti is delicious; its picture is slightly revolting.  Sorry about that!  Moving on... I don't want to waste your time explaining why I love this recipe because that would eat into your grocery list making, food shopping, and shell stuffing.  Instead, I'll just say I've served this to many people, and I've never had a complaint.  This is one of my favorite recipes, and I even considered keeping it a secret.  Mean, right?

Spinach and Cheese Manicotti

2 cups (8 oz.) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
16 oz. fat-free cottage cheese
10 oz. frozen, chopped spinach (thawed, drained, squeezed dry)
1/4 cup (1 oz.) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
8 oz. manicotti shells (14 shells)
26 oz. tomato-basil pasta sauce
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Combine 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, cottage cheese, and the next 5 ingredients (through black pepper) in a medium bowl.  Spoon about 3 tablespoons of mixture in each uncooked manicotti.

Pour half of the pasta sauce in a 9x13 dish (Rectangular Baker).  Arrange stuffed shells in a single layer over sauce, and top with remaining sauce.  Pour water into the dish, and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella evenly over the sauce.

Cover tightly with foil, and bake 1 hour or until shells are tender.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Note: This is a Cooking Light recipe, but please know that if you've ever eaten this in my home, I, uh, may have added some extra cheese.  I mean, 1/2 cup mozzarella on top?  That's just cruel.

The Stainless Colanders are great for lots of things, but they're absolutely necessary when one wishes to work with frozen spinach.  Time for a confession: Frozen spinach sometimes makes me skip a recipe.  I just hate the whole thaw, drain, squeeze dry step.  Nasty texture... frostbite... ugh.

The Rotary Grater makes quick work of Parmesan cheese, chocolate, nuts, and many other things.  This comes apart to go in the dishwasher, and it can also be flipped for left-handed use.  I'm also using the Easy Read Measuring Cups, Measuring Spoon Set, and Adjustable Measuring Spoon here.

What can I say about the Bamboo Grinders?  Not enough, I'll tell you that.  These are attractive, functional, and sturdy.  Also, the pepper from the Pampered Pantry is far better than any I've ever had.  I'm talking top quality spices, people!

The mixture is in a Stainless Mixing Bowl where it's been stirred together with the Mix 'n Scraper.  I started by scooping the mixture with a Stainless Scoop, but I decided to just use my fingers.  It's so much easier that way!  Funny story... I thought I was being Ms. Awesome the first time I made this recipe because I had my shells cooking while prepping my other ingredients.  Way ahead of the game, right?  Then I realized the shells were supposed to be uncooked.  Ms. Awesome became Ms. Idiot pretty quickly, but the taste was still amazing.  Note: Always read through recipe directions before beginning.  (If you make my mistake, simply omit the water step.)

Here's a tip for those of you who are a little obsessive and want to get all the sauce out of the jar (me).  Pour the 1 cup of water in there, and give it a shake.  Whatever chunks remain in the jar will end up in the pan.  I'm using an Easy Read Measuring Cup here, and the manicotti is in a Rectangular Baker.  To add counter space, I've got the Large Grooved Cutting Board resting over the sink.

Are you looking for a new dinner recipe?  Do you have a vegetarian friend you'd like to host?  Are  you watching the grocery budget?  Do you need to take food to someone who just had a baby?  Make this manicotti.

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