Dinner & Lunch

Cheese and Spinach Manicotti With Meat Sauce

Cheese and spinach manicotti with meat sauce makes a hearty family dinner or main course for an Italian-style buffet. The filling and sauce can be made the day before and the casserole can be assembled several hours in advance, if desired.

This recipe is by Beverly Dillon and was originally published in The Chicago Tribune


For the filling

  • 2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 10 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped red or green pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 box (15 ounces) manicotti shells
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For the meat sauce:

  • 1/2 pound ground chuck
  • 1/2 pound hot Italian sausage (remove from casing)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato puree
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper


For the filling

Step 1: For filling, thaw 2 packages frozen spinach. Squeeze out all water by pressing spinach in colander with the back of your hand or wooden spoon. Put in large mixing bowl. Add 2 cloves garlic, 2 onions, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese, 1 cup of the ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese, 1/3 cup cottage cheese, 1/2 cup red pepper, 1/4 cup parsley, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1 teaspoon salt.1 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. Using wooden spoon, mix to blend thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside.

Step 2: Cook 1 box manicotti according to package directions. Drain. Gently toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside.

For the meat sauce:

Step 1: For tomato and meat sauce, cook 1/2 pound ground chuck and 1/2 pound sausage in large skillet over medium-high heat until browned, breaking up with a wooden spoon. Drain off all fat.

Step 2: Stir in 1 can tomato puree, 1/4 cup tomato paste, 1/4 cup red wine, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat to boil over high heat. Cook 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Add meat, stir to mix. Remove from heat.

Step 3: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Oil bottom of 13- by 9-inch ovenproof baking pan or dish with 1 tablespoon oil. Set aside.

Step 4: Mix remaining mozzarella and ricotta and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese until well blended. Reserve.

Step 5: Gently fill manicotti with spinach and cheese filling. Lay in baking pan side by side. Spoon meat sauce over all. Cover with foil.

Step 6: Bake 30 minutes. Uncover. Spoon ricotta cheese mixture in dollops over pasta. Return to oven. Cook 10 minutes or until cheese topping is slightly brown.

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