When I am looking for new recipes, I look to fill 2 needs. It's better for me if they are simple and taste like they are not. Thus, making me look better! haha just teasing! Ok, not really. Well, this recipe fills both of those requirements and it has quickly become a favorite in our house! My kids love manicotti or I guess noodles in general, so I am always looking for ways to spice things up! The original recipe is great, but as always, I made some changes! ENJOY!
12 uncooked manicotti pasta shells
1 lb bulk Italian pork sausage or 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced or shreaded
1 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 jar (26 oz) tomato pasta sauce
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with Italian-style herbs, drained
1 container (15 oz) low or non fat cottage cheese
3 cups shredded Italian cheese blend or mozzarella cheese (12 oz)
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into strips
Heat oven to 350°F. Cook pasta shells as directed on package. Drain; rinse with cold water to cool.
Meanwhile, in 12-inch skillet, cook sausage or chicken, garlic and oregano over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sausage is no longer pink; drain. Stir in pasta sauce and tomatoes. Spread 1 cup of the meat sauce in ungreased 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish.
In medium bowl, beat egg. Stir in ricotta cheese and 2 cups of the Italian cheese blend. Spoon cheese mixture into gallon-size food-storage plastic bag; seal bag. Cut 1-inch hole in one bottom corner of bag. Squeeze bag to pipe about 1/4 cup cheese mixture into each pasta shell. Arrange stuffed shells over meat sauce in dish. Pour remaining meat sauce evenly over shells.
Cover dish with foil. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Top with remaining 1 cup Italian cheese blend. Bake uncovered 5 to 10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle basil over top before serving.