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Spinach Stuffed Manicotti with Red Pepper Bechamel Sauce

pasta manicotti entree  food photoThis was always a very popular entrée at our take out shop. Pasta has always been popular and this was no exception. We did not use the egg because we offered this as an item to be finished at home and I wasn’t comfortable with a raw egg in the filling as it wasn’t frozen. So it is offered here as an optional ingredient.

I always cook several additional shells as some invariably tear. Cooking them just to the al dente stage helps minimize the tearing. Filling these can be a challenge, but if you fill a freezer bag, close it, and cut off a corner, you can pipe the filling in making it much easier. Even if the shells tear, just lay them out flat, pipe the filling on one side and fold over the other side. No need to waste them. Serving these with a good Italian salad and crispy bread makes this a meal to savor.

The Red Pepper Bechamel is a simple white sauce to which pureed roasted red peppers have been added.  it truly makes a simple white sauce spectacular.  This sauce can be used anywhere.

Manicotti and Fillingpasta manicotti entree  food photo
1 – 10 ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed very dry
1 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 – 15 ounce containers ricotta cheese, low fat preferably
1/4 pound shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup asiago cheese, grated
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 egg, well beaten, optional
8 manicotti shells, cooked

Saute onion in oil until soft and lightly browned. pasta manicotti entree  food photo Add garlic. Saute briefly. Combine with spinach. pasta manicotti entree  food photo Set aside.

Combine ricotta, mozzarella, asiago, salt, pepper and nutmeg and egg if using. pasta manicotti entree  food photoAdd spinach mixture.

pasta manicotti entree  food photoMix well to combine.  pasta manicotti entree  food photo

To stuff the shells, place the mixture in a freezer bag and zip it shut.pasta manicotti entree  food photo

Cut the tip off the bag pasta manicotti entree  food photoand fill the manicotti shells.pasta manicotti entree  food photo

If they are split after cooking, as they often are lay them open flat and fill one sidepasta manicotti entree  food photo

fold the other side over.  Arrange in a  sprayed  7 x11 inch baking dishpasta manicotti entree  food photo or any other size they will fit into.

Red Pepper Bechamel Saucepasta manicotti entree  food photo 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cups milk
1/2 – 7 ounces bottled roasted red peppers, drained and blotted very dry
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/ teaspoon pepper

(For a how to tutorial on Bechamel, please see the Technique section.)

Melt butter; add flour and whisk until smooth. Add milk all at once and whisk until smooth. Add salt and pepper. Cook; stirring constantly until the sauce comes to a boil. Continue cooking for several minutes. Place the roasted peppers in a food processor. pasta manicotti entree  food photoProcess to puree.pasta manicotti entree  food photo

Gradually add the hot bechamel pasta manicotti entree  food photoand process until smooth.pasta manicotti entree  food photo Correct the salt and pepper.

Pour bechemel over manicotti. pasta manicotti entree  food photoSpray a piece of foil with cooking spray and cover casserole, sprayed side down. pasta manicotti entree  food photo Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove cover and continue baking for 15 minutes until sauce is bubbly. Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving.

This may be made and assembled the day before if desired. Cover and refrigerate. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place covered pan in oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes or until sauce is bubbly.

These also freeze well.

pasta manicotti entree  food photo

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