Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Spinach and Ricotta Stuff Manicotti with Chicken and Eggplant Ragu

 Happy National Pasta Day everyone!!  My family loves pasta so when the folks at CLASSICO asked me to pay tribute to this wonderful food, I jumped at the chance. I knew I had to come up with a fun dish to celebrate the day and that's what I think this Spinach and Ricotta Stuff Manicotti with Chicken and Eggplant Ragu does in spades.  I have never worked with manicotti style pasta before so when I saw it at the store I knew that it was my next challenge.  I decided to really bump up the health factor of this dish by not only using almost a pound of spinach in it, but also more than a pound of eggplant in the ragu sauce.  I also opted to use lean ground chicken instead of beef to lighten the sauce up even more.  Then I used a jar of  CLASSICO Creamy Spinach and Parmesan to bring the entire dish together. My family loved this comforting and flavorful pasta dish.  I also had a very comforting feeling since I knew it was full of healthy ingredients.

CLASSICO  would also like to offer five VIP coupons for free jars of Classico sauce to give away to to my readers within the USA today! They also encourage you to submit their own “Classico Creations” recipe.  I will select the winners randomly and have  CLASSICO mail you the coupons to use on any of their fantastic sauces.

1 (1-2lb) American variety eggplant diced very fine
1 (2oz) can of anchovy fillets in olive oil
2 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion diced
2-3 cloves of garlic grated
1lb of lean ground meat (I used ground chicken)
1 jar  CLASSICO pasta sauce
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
red chili flakes to taste
salt and black pepper to taste
1tsp brown sugar
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Spinach and Ricotta filling:

14-16oz frozen spinach
2 cups of Ricotta cheese(low fat cottage cheese can be substituted)
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
salt and pepper (to taste)
1 egg
1/8 of a teaspoon freshly grated Nutmeg
salt and black pepper to taste

For the Spinach Ricotta Filling:
 In a frying pan heat up the spinach to defrost.  Once heated add granulated garlic, salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Turn stove off and allow mixture to cool.  Then add ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese and egg. Mix until well combined.

For the Sauce:

Heat 2 Tbs of olive oil on medium-high heat in large pan and add the anchovy fillets plus the oil from the can.  Put a lid on it so the anchovies don't splatter everywhere.  Once the anchovies melt (this happens pretty quickly) add the chopped eggplant.

Cook eggplant for 7-8 minutes until it becomes tender and almost half it's volume.  Turn stove off and tilt the pan so the oil drains away from the eggplant.  Remove eggplant from pan until later. Heat stove again and use the drained oil to fry the onion and grated garlic for 1 minute.

 Then add the lean ground meat and brown.  Add the dried oregano, basil, red chili flakes, sugar, black pepper some salt (remember the anchovies will add salt to the dish as well).  Once the meat is browned and seasoned well, add the cooked eggplant back to the pan.

Next add the jar of  CLASSICO.   Turn stove to medium and allow sauce to cook for 15-20 minutes.  Taste for seasoning and turn stove off.  Cook manicotti pasta per package instructions (shy by one minute) in well salted water.

In an oven safe baking dish, fill 1/2 of the sauce on the bottom of pan.  Then fill the cooked manicotti with the spinach and ricotta mixture and place over the sauce.  Pour the remaining sauce and top with 2 cups of mozzarella cheese.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes until brown and bubbly on top and serve hot.  Enjoy.

 Disclosure: I received a sample jar of CLASSICO Creamy Spinach and Parmesan courtesy of  CLASSICO .   I was not compensated in any way for writing this post.  The opinions stated in this post are my own. Thank you.

Copyright: All recipes, content, and images (unless otherwise stated) are the sole property of Curry and Comfort. Please do not use without prior written consent. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited.