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Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1/4 cup onions, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh garlic (no more than that or the garlic will overpower the other ingredients!)
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided (can use a bit more)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (can use more)
  • 1 teaspoon italian seasoning
  • salt (to taste)
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach ( cooked according to package directions, then hand-squeezed dry to remove excess moisture)
  • 8 manicotti, cooked and drained (you might use more shells so I would cook 10)
  • 28 oz diced tomatoes with juice, do not drain (Italian style good)
  • 16 oz tomato sauce
  • 12 oz tomato paste
  • 2 tbs basalmic vinegar
  • 2 tbs dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (or to taste)
  • mozzarella cheese, for topping (any amount desired)

Directions

  1. Set oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Butter a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.
  3. In a saucepan, stir together the tomatoes (with juice), tomato sauce, tomato paste, vinegar basil, oregano, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste; heat till a medium boil; reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes
  4. Cook manicotti shells if this has not been done yet. Drain and let cool while doing the following steps.
  5. In a skillet, sauté onion (if using) in oil for about 4 minutes or until softened (adding in the garlic the last 2 minutes).
  6. In a mixing bowl combine the ricotta cheese, 1-1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, cream cheese, 6 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning; beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and well combined.
  7. Season with white salt or seasoned salt and black pepper to taste.
  8. Stir in onion mixture and spinach; mix well to combine.
  9. Spoon into cooked and cooled manicotti shells.
  10. Pour half of the pasta sauce into the prepared baking dish.
  11. Arrange shells over sauce (at this point you may cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours, or continue with the recipe as follows).
  12. Top with the remaining sauce, use a spoon to spread the sauce over the shells (the sauce does not have to cover the shells completely).
  13. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (or to taste) over the sauce.
  14. Cover and bake for 25 minutes.
  15. Uncover and top with mozzeralla cheese (any amount desired).
  16. Bake 5 mins longer, or until cheese is melted.
  17. Let stand 10 mins before serving.
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