6 servings

This creamy, crusty-topped casserole is a great make-ahead option for the holiday rush.

How to Make It

Step 1

Cook shells according to package directions; drain.

Step 2

Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet; add mushrooms and garlic, and sauté until mushroom liquid is absorbed. Transfer mushroom mixture to a large bowl.

Step 3

Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in skillet. Add spinach; cover and cook over medium-low heat 5 minutes or until spinach wilts. Add spinach to mushroom mixture. Stir in ricotta cheese and next 4 ingredients. Spoon spinach mixture evenly into shells. Place stuffed shells in a greased 13" x 9" baking dish.

Step 4

Melt 1/3 cup butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat; whisk in flour until smooth. Cook 1 minute, whisking constantly. Gradually whisk in half-and half; cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add Gouda cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Pour over stuffed shells.

Step 5

Process bread in a blender or food processor until it resembles coarse crumbs. Spread crumbs in a small pan; bake at 350° for 3 to 4 minutes or until toasted. Combine toasted crumbs, cheese blend, and 3 tablespoons melted butter in a bowl; toss well, and sprinkle over shells.

Step 6

Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 45 minutes or until bubbly.

Step 7

Note: If desired, cover and chill manicotti at least 8 hours before baking. Remove from refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Bake as directed.

Christmas with Southern Living 2002

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