SPINACH STUFFED MANICOTTI WITH RED PEPPER SAUCE
(From The Cloverleaf Restaurant In Eastpoint)

INGREDIENTS:

MANICOTTI FILLING:
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach
2 T. olive oil
1 c. chopped onion
1 t. minced fresh garlic
1 (15 oz.) container Ricotta cheese
1/2 c. coarsely grated Mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
pinch of grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

PASTA:
8 Manicotti shells, uncooked

MANICOTTI SAUCE:
3 T. butter
3 T. all purpose flour
2 c. milk
1 egg
1 jar (7 oz.) roasted sweet red pepper, drained, rinsed and blotted dry (or roast your own)
salt and pepper
1/2 c. additional shredded Mozzarella cheese


METHOD:

FILLING:
Cook spinach according to package directions; drain and cool. Blot with a paper towels to remove moisture. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet. Saute onion until tender (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and saute another minute. Stir in cooked, drained spinach and stir over medium heat to remove moisture further. In a large bowl, stir together Ricotta, 1/2 c. Mozzarella, Parmesan, beaten egg, nutmeg, salt and pepper til blended. Stir in the spinach, onion and garlic mixture; set aside.

PASTA:
Cook Manicotti shells in boiling salted water til just barely cooked (about 4-7 minutes). Carefully remove them and place in a bowl of cold water til ready to stuff. Blot Manicotti shells before stuffing. Evenly divide stuffing mixture and carefully fill shells. Arrange them in 2 rows in a lightly buttered or non-stick sprayed (9x13 inch) baking dish.

SAUCE:
Melt 3 T. butter in a medium saucepan over low heat and gradually stir in flour. Cook and stir constantly (about 3 minutes). Gradually add the milk, stirring over medium heat til the mixture comes to a slight boil, stir and lightly simmer as it thickens (about 10 minutes) as you would do if making any white sauce. Beat egg in a small bowl and gradually whisk in some of the hot sauce to warm (temper) the egg. Mix egg into the sauce and stir til blended. Meanwhile, puree roasted peppers in a food processor or blender. Gradually add the hot white sauce to the peppers. adjust with salt and pepper to taste, add the remaining 1/2 c. of Mozzarella cheese and finish blending til smooth.

BAKING:
Preheat oven to 375°. After arranging stuffed shells in buttered (9x13 inch) baking dish, pour Red Pepper Sauce over all. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake til sauce is bubbly (about 15 minutes). Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

NOTE: It is very important not to overcook pasta shells in the beginning.
(serves 4)


Spinach stuffed manicotti recipe is published in our July, 1997 Menu Minder.