Lightish. Gotta love that the indecision. Yes, I want to make a rich pasta dish with Alfredo sauce, but don’t want it to have too many calories. Typical female. This was my first go at manicotti. It is just so different from the standard spaghetti that it put fear in my heart for years. And while a few lessons were learned, it will take a few more trips around the park to get that pasta stuffing technique perfected. The stuffing is based on a stuffed shells recipe from Southern Living and the Alfredo sauce is based on a recipe comment that suggested using fat free half and half with a bit of flour instead of the whipping cream. Like I said, its lightish.
Yes, the sauce in the picture is broken. Perhaps its time to make an ugly picture category for the blog! But, there’s a story behind that. With all of the stress in my vocation and location due to the economy, and following two nights of “informational meetings” I was so stressed that the only way to get out of it was to go on a cooking bender. Everyone has their own way to handle stress, and an all out “leave me along and let me cook” marathon is a reliable tool in my repertoire. Naturally, time needed for each dish was completely underestimated. Typical. In the end, all of the prep work, including the Alfredo sauce, was completed in one evening, with the 5 family sized dishes assembled the next day. Food to share, food to freeze, food to ease burdens. And in the end, the cooking bender did soothe my frazzled nerves. Ahhhhhh.
Lightish Stuffed Manicotti
1 box manicotti shells
2 packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 cups diced chicken (optional)
1 TBS fresh basil, chopped
16 oz low fat cottage cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Alfredo Sauce ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups fat free half and half
2 TBS flour
3/4 cup Parmesan, grated
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 clove garlic, finely diced
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Drain chopped spinach well, pressing between paper towels.
3. Stir together spinach, chicken, basil, and next 4 ingredients. Set aside.
4. Prepare Alfredo sauce by melting butter in a sauce pan, add remaining ingredients, and lightly whisk until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Continue stirring over low heat for 5 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.
5. Cook manicotti shells according to directions on the box, and remove to a plate.
6. Spread 1 cup Alfredo sauce on the bottom of a 9 by 13 pan.
7. Either put spinach filling in a gallon size plastic bag and cut the corner off to use for filling each manicotti shell, or gently fill pasta tubes with a teaspoon. Lay the manicotti on the alfredo sauce.
8. Top with remaining sauce.
9. Bake, covered, at 350° for 40 to 45 minutes or until filling is hot and sauce is bubbly. Remove from oven, and let stand 10 minutes.
- This can be prepared through step 8, then covered and frozen for 1 month.
- I made one batch with chicken and one without. Both were equally yummy.
- When stuffing the manicotti tubes, I went back and forth between the plastic bag method and the spoon method. Next time I may need to just find more patience.
- Slightly under-cooking the pasta helped keep the tubes from splitting open.