Manicotti with Beef and Spinach

Hello there!

I had been trying to clean up my pantry this past couple of days and today I found two boxes of manicotti. I jogged my memory for ingredients to make it for today’s dinner and I realized that I have everything needed to make it right now! I love it when that happens…no trips to the grocery store needed! Little joys!

For stuffed pasta, I like ones that have cheese, meat, and veggies. Manicotti with ground beef, spinach and ricotta sounded really good!

I’ll show you how I made it!

Ingredients:

Beef and cheese mixture:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

10-12 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 teaspoons dried parsley

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon fennel seed

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 – 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon beef bouillon

1 (12-16 oz) package baby spinach

2 (12 ounce) package manicotti shells

4 cups ricotta cheese(or 2 cups each ricotta and labneh)

4 eggs, beaten

6 cups spaghetti sauce, divided (I used 2 24 oz cans of Del Monte meat pasta sauce)

White Sauce:

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

1/2 – 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Procedure:

  1. Prepare 2 9 x 13 baking dishes. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic until fragrant and add onions. Cook until onions turn translucent,about 5 minutes. Stir in ground beef. Cook until well browned and crumbled. Season with dried parsley, Italian seasoning, black pepper, fennel, paprika, red pepper flakes, salt, and beef bouillon. Stir well then add spinach. Keep stirring until spinach is wilted and beef is cooked through. Set aside to cool.
  3. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add manicotti shells and parboil for half of the time recommended on the package. Drain and cover with cool water to stop the cooking process and prevent the shells from cracking.
  4. To the ground beef mixture, add the ricotta cheese and stir well. When the mixture is cool, add the beaten eggs. Transfer mixture to a large piping bag or a gallon sized ziplock with a little of one corner snipped off.
  5. Spread 1/4 cup spaghetti sauce in the bottom of each 9×13 inch baking dish. Gently drain the manicotti shells and carefully stuff each one with the meat and cheese mixture; place shells in prepared dish. Lightly cover the dish with plastic wrap to prevent shells from cracking.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  7. Prepare the white sauce by melting the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and beef bouillon. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly, until it begins to bubble. Stir in half and half and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in parsley. Pour or ladle the sauce evenly over the stuffed shells. Sprinkle with the chopped fresh basil.
  8. Carefully pour or ladle spaghetti sauce over the white sauce, trying to layer the sauces without mixing.
  9. Cover and bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven, uncover and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 10 minutes more.
The beef and spinach mixture cooking in the saucepan.
Topping the stuffed manicotti with white sauce.
What it looks like coming out of the oven.
A huge slice for dinner!

NOTE: This recipe makes 2 13×9 inch pans of manicotti. They freeze well for future meals but if you want only 1 pan, halve all ingredients.

I make 2 and wrap one with aluminum foil and a layer of plastic wrap and freeze it. It will keep frozen up to 2 months. To reheat, bake from frozen for about 90-120 minutes or move to the refrigerator the night before and bake, defrosted, for 45-60 minutes, until hot and bubbly.

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