Roasted Butternut Squash and Lamb Stuffed Manicotti

During the winter squash season and I tend to buy more than I could ever use; but they look so delicious!  I had recently roasted some squash and onions for a bisque and loved the flavor, so I thought I'd give it another try for a manicotti stuffing.  The rich lamb flavor is just the right compliment to this stuffing.  Topped off with a subtle cream sauce ~ this dish is sure to become a favorite.  
"Roasted onions, garlic and squash envelop the lamb for a rich
and satisfying manicotti stuffing!"

Butternut squash, 1 10” squash (peeled, seeded and cubed)
1 medium onion, loosely chopped
1 head of garlic, cloves removed from skins
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbs. sage
1 teaspoon thyme
1 Tbs. sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb. ground lamb, (you can substitute with turkey or beef)
1 lb. fresh spinach (or 14 oz. bag of frozen spinach)

6 cups whipping cream
6 Tbs. flour
2 teaspoons sage
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups parmesan reggiano cheese, grated
3/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

1 box manicotti noodles

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, then reduce to 350 degrees

Cook manicotti according to package directions.  Drain, refill pot with cool water and set aside.

1. In a large bowl, combine squash, onion, garlic cloves and olive oil.  Toss to ensure all ingredients are coated with oil.  Sprinkle sage, thyme, salt & pepper over the mixture.  Toss again to mix.

2. Pour mixture onto a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.  Mix once during baking to ensure even cooking.

3. While the squash mixture is baking proceed with the next step.

4. In a large skillet, brown the ground meat and drain off oil.

5. Add the spinach to the pan and heat until wilted.  (If using frozen spinach; thaw spinach, squeeze out excess water then add to pan and combine well). 

6. Remove squash mixture from oven and separate garlic cloves from the rest of the mixture.  Chop garlic.

7. Add garlic to meat mixture and mix well.  Add squash mixture to the pan and gently toss to ensure all ingredients are mixed well.

1. In a large saucepan, heat 5 cups of milk over medium heat.  While the milk is heating combine the remaining 1 cup of milk with the flour.  Mix well to remove any lumps.

2. Slowly pour flour mixture into the warmed milk; continue to heat, stiring constantly.  Increase heat and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes, mixture will begin to thicken.

3. Add sage, thyme and nutmeg to the sauce, stir.

4. Add 1 1/2 cups of the parmesan reggiano cheese to the sauce (1/2 cup at a time); be sure to stir constantly.  Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes until all the cheese has melted.  Set aside.

Stuffing the Manicotti Shells
1. Pour 1 cup of sauce over the bottom of a 9”x 11” glass baking dish.

2. Take a shell out of the cool water.  Hold it open, placing one end on your palm and gently stuff with squash & meat mixture.  Lay in glass pan.  (You can always add more of the mixture to the shell once you lay it down.)

3. Repeat until all shells are filled.

4. Pour two thirds of the sauce over the top of the shells; sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese over the sauce.

5. Bake for 40 minutes.

6. The remaining 1/3 of the sauce should be warmed; pour over manicotti once they are plated.

7. Serve and enjoy!


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