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Chuck Burgess | Heart of Texas EC

Use your favorite green salsa to make a punchy cream sauce for this clever, south-of-the-border riff on manicotti.

8 ounces dry manicotti pasta shells
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup Mexican-style seasoning blend
1 pound cottage cheese
1 can (4.5 ounces) diced green chiles, drained
1/2 cup diced sun-dried tomatoes in oil
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
2 medium cloves garlic, diced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 1/2 cups salsa verde

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook manicotti according to package directions for al dente, then drain and cool.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-by-11-inch glass cooking dish. Heat grill to medium-high.

3. While the grill heats, combine the chicken and seasoning in a sealable bag and leave at room temperature for 5 minutes to let flavors permeate the chicken. Grill the chicken over direct heat until done, turning once, about 15–18 minutes total. Cover with foil and set aside.

4. In a medium bowl, combine the cottage cheese, chiles, sun-dried tomatoes and pepper jack cheese. Dice the grilled chicken and fold into the mixture.

5. Heat the butter and garlic in a skillet over medium heat until butter has melted, stirring frequently. Whisk the flour into the butter until smooth. Add the Parmesan, oregano, salt, pepper and half-and-half, and stir to blend. Stir in the salsa verde and remove mixture from heat.

6. Stuff each manicotti with equal amounts of chicken mixture and place them in baking dish (if any of the mixture is left, stir it into the sauce). Pour sauce over the manicotti and place on middle rack in the oven. Bake 25–30 minutes, or until heated through and the sauce is bubbling.

Serves 4–6.

Cook’s Tip

For the best results, cook the manicotti just to al dente so each shell will hold its shape when baked. (Overcooked manicotti tends to fall apart.)