Now onto the Manicotti. World's Easiest Baked Manicotti, to be exact. You are going to love, love, love this recipe! What makes it so easy? Well, the fact that you don't have to cook the manicotti before you stuff it makes it super easy, in my book. And the delicious (relatively low fat) cream sauce comes together like that! Here's what the dish looks like when it's just out of the oven, to whet your little appetite:
Yumm! Your family will just love this.
Here's some of the ingredients that you're gonna need to get started:
You'll also need some pre-cooked chicken. I know I know, I've been on a chicken kick since starting this blog--I promise, I'll move onto other meats! Anyways, if you read my newspaper column, you already know that I'm big on pre-roasting bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, then shredding them. I find this to be the most economical way to have pre-cooked chicken for the dishes that call for such, AND the chicken is so much more moist and flavorful than say, a poached boneless, skinless breast. Some of my girlfriends swear by the deli counter's already roasted chickens, so you could always do that, too. Whatever floats your boat. Here are how the roasted breasts look when they first come out of the oven:
Soooo hard not to nibble on that chicken skin! This 8 dollar package of breasts provided enough cooked chicken for this manicotti recipe AND enough for a whole 'nuther meal--I just keep it in a ziploc bag in my freezer until the next time I need it:
So, the first thing you'll want to do is drain your thawed and chopped spinach in a colander. Then you need to squeeeeeeze the daylights out of it--you don't want it to be full of water:
Next you can shred your 2 cups of Monterey Jack cheese, and combine 1 cup of that with your spinach and 3 cups of cooked chicken:
(I cheated a little here--added a little cheddar to my cheese mix, because it's my blog and I can do what I want--hah!)
Onto the sauce. First you'll make a Roux--fancy French for your cream sauce base--just combine butter and flour until smooth. Gradually add your chicken broth and milk, then your tomato sauce and spices:
Now the real fun begins! Stuff your uncooked manicotti shells with your chicken mixture--the easiest way to do this is with your fat little fingers, like so:
(your fingers probably aren't as fat as mine, in case you were insulted!)
Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce in your greased baking dish, then arrange stuffed manicotti over sauce. Top with remaining sauce:
Note: I had extra filling left over, so I just stuffed it between the shells--waste not, want not!
Cover and bake for 45 minutes, then uncover and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 10 minutes longer, let sit a bit, then serve:
I served mine with some steamed broccoli, because I'm just salad-ed out! Fabulous and easy supper!
EASY BAKED SPINACH AND CHICKEN MANICOTTI
Serves 5-6 (terrific leftover!)
1 10oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
3 cups cooked chicken breast, choppped
3 tblsp. butter
3 tblsp. flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
28 oz. can tomato puree
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. brown sugar
12 UNCOOKED manicotti shells
2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, divided
Squeeze spinach dry; place in bowl. Add diced chicken and 1 cup Jack cheese. Set aside. In a large saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour until smooth; gradually add broth and milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in tomato sauce, spices and brown sugar; cook over low heat for 4-5 minutes or until heated through. Stuff uncooked manicotti shells with chicken/spinach mixture. Spread 1/2 cup sauce into greased 11x13 baking dish. Arrange stuffed manicotti over sauce; top with remaining sauce (making sure all noodles are covered). Cover and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees, or until bubbly. Uncover and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake for 10-15 more minutes or until cheese is melted. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.
TOP 3 THINGS I'M GRATEFUL FOR TODAY:
1. I'm grateful for the wonderful time we've spent with our daughter while she's been home on her winter break. She's flying back to sunny California tomorrow, weather permitting!
2. I'm grateful that I've lost 10 lbs. over the past few weeks, and feel very very energetic, thanks to my fabulous doctors at Johns Hopkins Medical Center, who tweaked my medications to my benefit.
3. I'm grateful for this blog and my newspaper column, and for all of my amazing readers who make my day, each and every day! MMMMMWWWAHHHH (that's an air kiss, blown in your general direction)