Cheese-Stuffed Manicotti with Italian Sausage and Mushroom Ragu

Cheese-Stuffed Manicotti with Sausage and Mushroom Ragu

  • Servings: 8 two shell servings with 1 cup sauce
  • Difficulty: Moderate
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Try my signature recipe for Cheese-Stuffed Manicotti with Sausage and Mushroom Ragu. It's healthier than the traditional version, No one will know.

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Italian Sausage and Mushroom Ragu
99% residue-free olive oil cooking spray
1 lb. sweet or spicy 95 to 98% fat-free Italian turkey or chicken sausage, cooked and drained of fat
2 to 3 large cloves fresh garlic, pressed or minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 cup dry white or a light-bodied red wine (You can substitute water for wine.)
2 6‑oz. cans tomato paste 1 28‑oz. can ready-cut Roma or regular tomatoes or
2 lb. fresh Roma or regular tomatoes, peeled and seeded
2 cups fresh sliced white or baby portabella mushrooms
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped 1 tbsp. fresh oregano or ½ tablespoon dry 
1 tbsp. fresh chopped thyme or ½ tablespoon dry
1 large bay leaf 1 to 2 tbsp. sugar ½ tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. granulated garlic powder
1/8 tsp. chile powder or cayenne pepper fresh ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Cheese-Stuffed Manicotti
16 manicotti noodles, uncooked
1 16‑oz. container nonfat cottage cheese
7 oz. grated reduced fat mozzarella cheese (2 to 4g fat per 1 oz.) divided in 1½ and ¼ cups
2 oz. (½ cup) grated reduced fat Monterey Jack cheese (4 to 5g fat per 1 oz.)
2 oz. (½ cup) fresh grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese divided into ¼ cups
1 10‑oz. package chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained thoroughly; or 4 cups fresh shredded spinach
2 eggs
1 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley – optional
¼ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
¼ tsp. nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)


I. Spray a 4‑quart stock pot with olive oil cooking spray and preheat on medium. Sauté garlic 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly golden. Add onions and sauté until translucent. Add tomatoes and all remaining ingredients, except sausage, fresh basil, and olive oil.

2. While sauce is simmering, cook sausage. If necessary, drain fat off sausage on paper towels and set aside.

3. Simmer sauce for 1 to 4 hours. About an hour before sauce is done, add sausage and continue to simmer until heated through.

4. While sauce is simmering, bring large pot of water to boil. There should be enough room in pot for pasta to move freely through boiling water. Add pasta and cook for 6 to 7 minutes; stirring often to keep pasta from sticking. Drain and rinse pasta with cold water.

5. While pasta is cooking, combine all four cheeses with spinach, parsley, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Leaving nozzle attachments off a pastry bag, fill with cheese mixture. Fill shells, taking care not to overfill. 

6. Preheat oven to 350 F. Pour 3 cups of sauce into the bottom of a large rectangular baking dish. Place filled shells side by side in a single layer, leaving at least a 1/4 inch between each shell. Cover shells with remaining sauce; cover pan with foil and bake 45 to 55 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and shells are tender.

7. Remove from oven top with remaining ¼ cup Asiago and ¼ cup mozzarella cheeses and allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.


Nutrition Information: 2 shells and 1 cup sauce 480 calories; 12g Fat; 51g carbohydrate; 6g fiber; 37g protein; 46mg cholesterol; 1060mg sodium

Original Nutrition Information: 2 shells and 1 cup sauce 830 calories; 50g fat; carbohydrate 12g; 6g fiber; 45g protein; 145mg cholesterol; 1700mg sodium

Cooks Note: Make sure not to overcook shells. They should be slightly undercooked. (Follow the cooking time on the package.) The sauce’s moisture will finish cooking the shells.

I keep the plastic trays the shells come in. While the pasta is cooking, spray the trays with cooking spray. About 60 seconds before the pasta is done, begin removing the shells from the boiling water using a pasta tool or slotted spoon. Place shells back in the tray’s slots allow to cool before filling. This will keep the shells from braking and make them easier to fill. You can fill the shells a day or so in advance, cover them tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

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