Chicken Manicotti

Chicken Manicotti-1-22 I absolutely love this time of year, from the start of Thanksgiving all the way til the New Year. With the holiday season in full swing, it’s amazing to me how busy it can get. Are you guys the same way? It’s awesome, though. I love all the cooking, the bustling, decorating, spending time with loved ones, and most importably, remembering what all these holidays are all about in the first place.

Probably like no other time throughout the year, I depend on really easy dinner recipes to feed my family. No matter how busy it gets, my boys have to eat, and me too, of course. (Although, one of the boys only eats formula, but he’ll grow into regular food soon too:).)

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you know how I depend on Freezer Cooking to pull me through a pinch, especially when there are so many other activities to give our attention to.

This is a new recipe that I came up with, with the goal of lightening up Lasagna. Lasagna is great, but honestly, this girl right here can’t eat it too often, due to health issues, which we definitely won’t get into.

When I took out the bubbling dish from the oven and scooped out servings for my tasting team, they all gave it rave reviews and exclamations. This is a winner and a keeper in our household for sure. I love that it’s fairly simple to put together, you can easily make an extra one to freeze, it’s a lightened up version of a very hearty and calorie laden classic and above all, the flavor combination is SUPERB and will get a big A+. 

Ingredients:

1 package manicotti shells (14 shells)

Filling:

1/2 Tablespoon oil

3/4 lb ground chicken

1 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon coriander

salt, pepper

1 teaspoon Italian dry herbs

14 oz small curd cottage cheese, drained

5 oz frozen spinach (1/2 cup drained spinach)

1 Tablespoon sun dried peppers, minced

2 Tablespoons sun dried tomatoes, minced

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

3/4 cup Mozzarella cheese, grated (plus 1 cup for sprinkling on top of the manicotti)

2 eggs

Tomato Sauce:

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 Tablespoon olive oil

1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes

salt, pepper

1/2 Tablespoon dry Italian herbs

1 Tablespoon fresh basil and parsley, each, chopped

First of all, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions. The pasta should only be partially cooked, since it will continue cooking when it bakes. Drain the pasta and set is aside. (I was making a double portion of manicotti, so the ingredients in the pictures will be doubled.)

Chicken Manicotti-1-10

Filling:

While the water is coming to a boil, heat 1/2 a Tablespoon of oil in a skillet and add the onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the onion has softened and become slightly golden, 5-7 minutes. Chicken Manicotti-1-2 Add the ground chicken and season with salt, pepper, coriander, Italian dry herbs, etc. You can add whatever seasonings you like.

You can also use other meat in here, such as ground turkey, pork, beef, sausage, etc. I prefer ground chicken. Chicken Manicotti-1-4 Cook until the meat is cooked through. Place it in a large bowl and add the spinach, sun dried tomatoes and sun dried peppers. Make sure that you drain the frozen spinach really well. Mix to combine.

You can certainly use fresh spinach, but you’ll need to sauté it until it wilts and also drain as much liquid out of it as you can. Instead of sun dried peppers and tomatoes, you can use fresh ones. Use twice as much as it you would need the dry ingredients and it would be best to sauté them first, so add them to the onions and garlic. I love to use sun dried peppers and tomatoes. They have such a great flavor, and they are very concentrated, so just a small amount will really impact the dish.

You can wait until the meat cools off and then add everything that is required for the filling, but I was impatient:). Chicken Manicotti-1-6 When the meat has cooled off, add the cottage cheese, Mozzarella, Parmesan and eggs. Season with a bit more salt and pepper.

Chicken Manicotti-1-8

Tomato Sauce:

This is such a simple tomato sauce and it tastes delicious and very fresh. I make it all the time for a number of different recipes. I always have diced tomatoes on hand in my pantry. They are perfect to use for sauces, since they have mostly tomato meat with some juice as well. Pulse the tomatoes in the food processor until they are the consistency that you like.

Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a deep skillet, adding the minced garlic while the skillet is still cold. Cook for just a minute or two until the garlic starts to get fragrant.  Add the pureed tomatoes, season with salt, pepper and dry Italian herbs. Cook for about 15 minutes, covered, on medium heat. Add the fresh herbs. Your sauce is done. Isn’t that easy?

Chicken Manicotti-1-12

Assembling the Manicotti:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pour some of the sauce into the bottom of the baking dish that you will be baking the manicotti in. Chicken Manicotti-1-14 Fill the manicotti shells with the filling and nestle them into the sauce. Chicken Manicotti-1-16 Cover with more sauce on top of the manicotti and sprinkle with cheese. I prefer to use part skim Mozzarella cheese, because it melts beautifully, but you won’t have that really greasy, orange stuff floating on top of your dish.

You can use any deep, rimmed baking dish for the manicotti, as long as you have sauce on the bottom and on top of the filled manicotti shells.

Chicken Manicotti-1-18

Chicken Manicotti-1-26 Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for about 30-40 minutes, until it’s bubbling around the edges. Take off the aluminum towards the end of cooking, just to brown the cheese a bit.

Manicotti is a perfect dish to make ahead of time. You can simply store it in the refrigerator a day or two in advance, or store it in the freezer. When you are really busy or just want a simple meal, thaw the manicotti and then bake as you normal would.

Chicken Manicotti-1-22

 

Chicken Manicotti
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 package manicotti shells (14 shells)
Filling:
  • ½ Tablespoon oil
  • ¾ lb ground chicken
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon coriander
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Italian dry herbs
  • 14 oz small curd cottage cheese, drained
  • 5 oz frozen spinach (1/2 cup drained spinach)
  • 1 Tablespoon sun dried peppers, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons sun dried tomatoes, minced
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • ¾ cup Mozzarella cheese, grated (plus 1 cup for sprinkling on top of the manicotti)
  • 2 eggs
Tomato Sauce:
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • salt, pepper
  • ½ Tablespoon dry Italian herbs
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh basil and parsley, each, chopped
Instructions
  1. First of all, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions. The pasta should only be partially cooked, since it will continue cooking when it bakes. Drain the pasta and set is aside.
Filling:
  1. While the water is coming to a boil, heat ½ a Tablespoon of oil in a skillet and add the onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the onion has softened and become slightly golden, 5-7 minutes.
  2. Add the ground chicken and season with salt, pepper, coriander, Italian dry herbs, etc. You can add whatever seasonings you like.You can also use other meat in here, such as ground turkey, pork, beef, sausage, etc. I prefer ground chicken. Cook until the meat is cooked through.
  3. Place it in a large bowl and add the spinach, sun dried tomatoes and sun dried peppers. Make sure that you drain the frozen spinach really well. Mix to combine.
  4. You can certainly use fresh spinach, but you'll need to sauté it until it wilts and also drain as much liquid out of it as you can. Instead of sun dried peppers and tomatoes, you can use fresh ones. Use twice as much as it you would need the dry ingredients and it would be best to sauté them first, so add them to the onions and garlic. I love to use sun dried peppers and tomatoes. They have such a great flavor, and they are very concentrated, so just a small amount will really impact the dish.
  5. When the meat has cooled off, add the cottage cheese, Mozzarella, Parmesan and eggs. Season with a bit more salt and pepper.
Tomato Sauce:
  1. Pulse the tomatoes in the food processor until they are the consistency that you like.
  2. Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a deep skillet, adding the minced garlic while the skillet is still cold. Cook for just a minute or two until the garlic starts to get fragrant.
  3. Add the pureed tomatoes, season with salt, pepper and dry Italian herbs. Cook for about 15 minutes, covered, on medium heat. Add the fresh herbs. Your sauce is done.
Assembling the Manicotti:
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Pour some of the sauce into the bottom of the baking dish that you will be baking the manicotti in.
  3. Fill the manicotti shells with the filling and nestle them into the sauce. Cover with more sauce on top of the manicotti and sprinkle with cheese. I prefer to use part skim Mozzarella cheese, because it melts beautifully, but you won't have that really greasy, orange stuff floating on top of your dish.
  4. You can use any deep, rimmed baking dish for the manicotti, as long as you have sauce on the bottom and on top of the filled manicotti shells.
  5. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for about 30-40 minutes, until it's bubbling around the edges. Take off the aluminum towards the end of cooking, just to brown the cheese a bit.
  6. Manicotti is a perfect dish to make ahead of time. You can simply store it in the refrigerator a day or two in advance, or store it in the freezer. When you are really busy or just want a simple meal, thaw the manicotti and then bake as you normal would.

 
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Comments

  1. mary says

    Hi Olga. My manicotti was a little bit dry and hard to chew. Have you tried making more sauce (maybe double), so it will be all covered in the sauce?

  2. oksana says

    hi Olga im planning on making this dish tonight and i have a whole box of pasta shells do you think that would work this same as manicotti?

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