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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Spinach manicotti with sauce choices satisfies crowd

By Elaine Magee

Q. How do I lighten this manicotti? It's great for a crowd, and there's no way to get out of eating one!

A. I'm always looking for meatless dinner entrees to serve during the week. This recipe fits the bill, with a ricotta cheese filling and a mushroom white sauce. Or substitute 3 cups of bottled marinara sauce. I topped half of the manicotti with mushroom white sauce and half with bottled marinara so everyone had two choices. I had to sample both, so I could tell you with confidence that both toppings work very well.

I cut 100 calories and halved the fat by making the mushroom white sauce with olive oil instead of butter and lighter dairy products. I also halved the Parmesan cheese because 1 1/2 cups seemed a lot.

I added chopped spinach to the filling, which looked and tasted like it belonged in there. The spinach/cheese filling was made with part-skim ricotta and mozzarella instead of whole-milk varieties, and 1 egg plus 1/2 cup egg substitute was added instead of 3 eggs.

The original recipe contains 452 calories, 24 grams of fat, 14 grams saturated fat and 167 milligrams cholesterol per manicotti.


  • 13-ounce package fresh lasagna sheets (or similar)
  • 1 tablespoon canola or olive oil (for boiling pasta)

    For the white sauce:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup minced sweet onion
  • 4 cups sliced crimini mushrooms (ordinary mushrooms can be used)
  • 1/4 cup Wondra quick-mixing flour (regular can be used)
  • 3 cups fat-free half-and-half (low-fat milk can be used)
  • 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • black pepper to taste

    For the filing:

  • 1 pound part-skim or low-fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 box frozen spinach (8 to 10 ounces) thawed and gently pressed to eliminate excess water
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley (or 2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic

    Heat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with canola cooking spray. Pour water 4 inches deep into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the oil and lasagna sheets and cook, according to the package directions, until just tender. Drain and rinse in cold water. Lay lasagna sheets out on jellyroll pan to cool.

    Add olive oil to large nonstick frying pan and bring to hot over medium-high heat. Add onion and mushroom slices and saute until mushrooms are lightly browned. In a bowl or large measuring cup, mix together 1/4 cup of flour and stir in 1/2 cup of the fat-free half-and-half to make a thin paste. Then stir in the remaining fat-free half-and-half.

    When mushrooms are lightly browned, stir in the half-and-half mixture, and the shredded Parmesan and stir until mixture comes to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to low and stir a few minutes until thickened; set aside. Add pepper to taste.

    In a mixing bowl, combine and blend the filling ingredients: spinach, ricotta, mozzarella, Romano, parsley, egg, egg substitute, minced garlic.

    Depending on how large your lasagna sheet is, you may need to cut it into two. Lay pasta sheet, about 5 inches by 5 inches, on a plate. Add 1/3 cup of filling and shape the filling along one edge. Roll up like an enchilada and place in prepared baking dish.

    Repeat with remaining pasta sheets and filling. Cover with the mushroom white sauce and bake until manicotti is hot throughout and sauce is bubbling (20-25 minutes). Serve hot. Makes about 10 manicotti.

  • Per manicotti (with white sauce): 360 calories, 25 g protein, 39 g carbohydrate, 12 g fat (5.7 gram saturated fat, 4.3 g monounsaturated fat, .9 g polyunsaturated fat), 75 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 420 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 29 percent.

    To find out more about "Comfort Food Makeovers" and to join the free Recipe Doctor Club, see www.recipedoctor.com.