2 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup chopped onion

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 pound ground beef

salt to taste

1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

1 (12 ounce) package manicotti shells

2 cups ricotta cheese

2 eggs, beaten

3 cups spaghetti sauce, divided

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules

2 cups half-and-half

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese


Step 1:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Saute onions until translucent.

Saute garlic for 1 minute and stir in ground beef.

Cook until well browned and crumbled.

Season with salt and set aside to cool.

Step 2:

Cook spinach according to package directions.

Meanwhile, 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.

Step 3:

To the ground beef mixture add the cooked spinach and ricotta cheese.

When the mixture is cool, add the beaten eggs.

Spread 1/4 cup spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a 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 or a clean, damp towel to prevent shells from cracking.

Step 4:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Step 5:

Prepare the white sauce by melting the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.

Stir in flour and chicken 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.

Step 6:

Stir the basil into the remaining spaghetti sauce.

Carefully pour or ladle spaghetti sauce over the white sauce, trying to layer the sauces without mixing.

Step 7:

Cover and bake for 40 minutes.

Remove from oven, uncover and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake, uncovered, for 10 minutes more.

Nutrition Information:

Calories: 470 kcal | Total Fat: 25 grams | Saturated Fat: 12 grams | Trans Fat: Less than 1 gram | Cholesterol: 130 mg | Sodium: 970 mg | Total Carbohydrates: 34 grams | Dietary Fiber: 4 grams | Sugars: 6 grams | Protein: 27 grams

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I make this recipe vegetarian-friendly?

Yes, you can easily make this manicotti recipe vegetarian by substituting the ground beef with plant-based alternatives such as crumbled tofu, textured vegetable protein (TVP), or a meat substitute like Beyond Beef.

You can also increase the quantity of spinach or add other vegetables like mushrooms for extra flavor and texture.

Can I prepare this dish in advance and bake it later?

Absolutely! Manicotti is a great dish to prepare in advance.

You can assemble the stuffed shells and place them in the baking dish, then cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake.

When you’re ready, simply pour the sauces over the shells and bake according to the recipe instructions.

This makes it perfect for entertaining or busy weeknights.

Can I freeze leftover manicotti?

Yes, manicotti freezes quite well.

After baking, allow the dish to cool completely, then wrap it tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap.

Place the wrapped dish in a freezer-safe container or freezer bag, and it can be stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.

To reheat, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then bake in the oven until heated through.

Can I use different types of cheese in this recipe?

Absolutely! While ricotta cheese is traditional for manicotti, you can experiment with different cheeses to suit your taste preferences.

Try using cottage cheese, mozzarella, fontina, or a blend of Italian cheeses like Parmesan, Romano, and Asiago.

The cheese you choose will affect the flavor and texture of the dish, so feel free to get creative!

Can I make this recipe healthier?

Yes, you can make several adjustments to make this manicotti recipe healthier.

Consider using lean ground turkey or chicken instead of ground beef to reduce the fat content.

You can also opt for whole wheat manicotti shells for added fiber.

Additionally, you can reduce the amount of cheese or use a lower-fat variety, and you can substitute Greek yogurt for some or all of the half-and-half in the white sauce to decrease the calorie and fat content.

Can I use ground turkey or chicken instead of beef in this recipe?

Absolutely! Ground turkey or chicken can be excellent substitutes for ground beef in manicotti.

They offer a leaner option while still providing plenty of flavor.

Simply follow the recipe instructions as you would with beef, adjusting seasoning as needed.

Can I use fresh spinach instead of frozen?

Certainly! You can use fresh spinach in place of frozen.

Simply wilt the fresh spinach in a skillet with a little olive oil until it’s cooked down, then chop it finely and proceed with the recipe as directed.

Can I make the manicotti shells ahead of time?

Yes, you can parboil the manicotti shells ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble the dish.

Just be sure to drain them well and cover them with a damp paper towel to prevent them from drying out or sticking together.

Can I use a different type of cheese instead of ricotta?

Yes, you can experiment with different cheeses to suit your taste preferences.

Cottage cheese or a blend of mozzarella and Parmesan can work well as substitutes for ricotta cheese in this recipe.

Feel free to get creative with your cheese choices!

Can I use whole milk instead of half-and-half for the white sauce?

While half-and-half provides a creamy richness to the sauce, you can use whole milk as a substitute if you prefer.

Keep in mind that whole milk may result in a slightly lighter sauce, but it will still be delicious.

Can I use store-bought marinara sauce instead of making my own spaghetti sauce?

Absolutely! Using store-bought marinara sauce can save you time and effort.

Simply choose your favorite brand or flavor of marinara sauce and use it instead of homemade spaghetti sauce in this recipe.

Can I add other herbs or seasonings to the white sauce?

Certainly! You can customize the white sauce to your liking by adding additional herbs or seasonings.

Consider adding a pinch of nutmeg, garlic powder, or Italian seasoning for extra flavor.

Feel free to adjust the seasonings according to your taste preferences.

Can I omit the white sauce and just use spaghetti sauce?

Yes, if you prefer, you can omit the white sauce and simply use spaghetti sauce for this recipe.

Just be sure to cover the stuffed shells with spaghetti sauce before baking and adjust the baking time as needed.

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