Weeknight Chicken ManicottiEstimated Cost:  $10.00

Prep Time:  20 minutes

Baking Time:  1 hour

Serves:  7

Manicotti are very large pasta tubes usually ridged, that are intended to be stuffed, then baked and topped with a traditional Italian white béchamel that is usually made with Romano or Parmesan cheese, or red sauce, or both. Traditionally, the filling is ricotta cheese mixed with cooked chopped spinach which may or may not include ground meat such as veal.

This western adaptation streamlines the process and is super easy!  No precooked noodles, just five ingredients and only three very simple steps.  A perfect weeknight, one casserole dish that does not sacrifice flavor for ease of preparation.

1 jar (24 oz.) Marinara sauce
3/4 cup water
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 lb. chicken breast tenders
14 uncooked manicotti shells
2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
chopped fresh basil leaves, if desired

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In medium bowl, mix Marinara sauce and water. Spread about 1/3 of the Marinara sauce mixture in ungreased 13×9-inch glass baking dish.

2. Sprinkle garlic and salt on chicken. Insert chicken into uncooked manicotti shells, stuffing from each end of shell to fill if necessary. Place shells on pasta sauce in baking dish. Pour remaining pasta sauce evenly over shells, covering completely. Cover with foil.

3. Bake about 1 hour, at 350°F, or until chicken is no longer pink in center and shells are tender. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake uncovered an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with basil if desired.

Mike’s comments:

Personalize this recipe with your favorite Marinara or pasta sauce. Personally, I’ve always been a fan of the Newman’s Own line of pasta and Marinara sauces.