Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Spinach, Cheese & Sausage Manicotti

 Tonight I wanted to make my husband something for dinner after after a not so awesome dinner the night before. Lately Ive been doing this thing where I go to the grocery store undecided on what I want to make for dinner and then I wander up and down the aisles, putting things into my basket, and taking them out. This battle in my head continues until I have settled upon an idea, which can take awhile as I am horrible at making up my mind (reason #1 why my husband will NOT go grocery shopping with me). Anyways tonight I knew immediately I wanted to do a pasta dish but it took a good 25 minutes for me to finally decide on manicotti. I love manicotti because it is such a versatile dish. Truly you can put any ingredients into it and it is hard for it not to be delicious. My favorite however is a yummy combo of spinach and sausage. My manicotti is made with a blend of cheeses, each with its own texture, yummy hot Italian sausage, onion, and spinach. On weeknights when I want to get dinner on the table in a hurry, I grab a jar of marinara sauce from the store and add a can of diced tomatoes, but believe me when I say everything is better when you make your own sauce. That however is not always an option, and so jar marinara, you win.

Assembled Manicotti- ready for the oven

Hot out of the oven. Don't forget to let cool!

Spinach, Cheese & Sausage Manicotti

1 tbsp olive oil
1 pound ground sausage (I use hot italian)
½ onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup part skim ricotta
1 cup (1 pkg) cream cheese
½ cup parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
¼ cup Panko Bread crumbs
10oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 egg
1 tsp fresh parley, chopped or ½ tsp dried
Freshly ground salt & pepper
1 pkg manicotti noodles, uncooked
14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, with herbs, drained
2 cups Marinara sauce (or 1 jar)

Preheat oven to 350. In a 9x12 baking dish pour half of the jar (or 1 cup) marinara sauce. Make sure it covers the entire bottom of dish. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened about 3-4 minutes. Add sausage to pan and cook until browned. Add in garlic and cook for another minute. Remove sausage from pan and let cool. In a large bowl combine cream cheese, ricotta, parmesan, bread crumbs, spinach, egg, parsley, salt and pepper. Stir to combine completely. Add in sausage mixture and stir combine.

Stuff uncooked manicotti with sausage/spinach/cheese mixture (I like to put the mixture into a plastic bag and cut a hole at the corner to use as a “pastry” bag to fill manicotti, but you can also do my hand). Place manicotti in baking dish on top of marinara sauce. After all manicotti are in pan, drizzle the other cup of marinara on top. Top with the diced tomatoes. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.

Remove foil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Continue baking uncovered for an additional 15 minutes. Let cool then serve.

Makes 13-14 Manicotti

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