Spinach and Cheese Manicotti

Spinach and Cheese Manicotti is a classic Italian meal that is sure to please the family and impressive enough to serve company.
The filling can be made in just a few minutes... be sure to allow the spinach to cool before adding it to the cheese mixture.  Always drain the cooked spinach of any excess water.
Stuffing manicotti can be tricky.. I tried several ways... including a tip I found on the internet... putting the filling in a freezer Ziploc bag and cutting corner off to use as a "pastry bag" kind of thing... all I can say is I wouldn't recommend it..
First, if you do try the bag method... remember to zip the top shut (after forcing out additional air)...  twisting the top shut like a pastry bag didn't work well... it doesn't twist well and excess filling popped out of the top.
Second... because of the spinach and cheese is not exactly smooth ..it doesn't come out of the bag in a steady stream...
Many people complain about stuffing manicotti... I do a few things that I feel make it a little easier..
I cook the manicotti until they are somewhat cooked.. still a little too stiff to eat.. but slightly cooked... this way they are manageable... and don't split as easily.
I drain them.. then immediately rinse them in cold water to cool them.  Drain them... lay out double thickness of paper towel and lay them on there to dry them even more... pat the tops with paper towel...
Then spray a non-stick baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray.. not tons. just a little... lay the manicotti on it... so they don't stick.
Always work with them cooled... I use an ice tea spoon to stuff them.. I stuff one side then turn them around and stuff the other side... a couple of mine split a little at the top.. it really wasn't a big deal...
Make as many or as few as you like... my stuffing recipe will stuff about 8 of them.
Serve this with a small salad.. some garlic bread.. and you have yourself one delicious and impressive dinner!

Recipe:  Spinach and Cheese Manicotti
All you need:
Manicotti pasta shells

1 container (15 oz.) part-skim ricotta cheese

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 egg, beaten

1 cup cooked chopped spinach, cooled

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Pinch of salt

Tomato Sauce (homemade or jarred)

1 ½ cups mozzarella cheese

Cooking spray (olive oil is preferred)

All you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook the manicotti shells until cooked but still firm and just a bit too stiff to eat.  Cool and then drain on paper towels.* See Tips

In a large bowl, beat an egg then mix in the ricotta, Parmesan cheese, spinach, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt.  Set it aside.

Spoon about 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish.

Fill the manicotti shells with the spinach and cheese mixture.  Lay the filled manicotti in a row.  Sppon additional sauce over the manicotti shells.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the dish from the oven and spread the shredded mozzarella over the manicotti.  Lightly spray the cheese with the olive oil cooking oil spray.

Return the baking dish to the oven and bake another 20 minutes or until cheese has melted and starts to brown slightly.

Remove the dish from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. 

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