At last, cheese joins tasty low-fat ranks


February 09, 1993|By Colleen Pierre, R.D. | Colleen Pierre, R.D.,Contributing Writer

Cheese makers have had a tough time getting on the low-fat and fat-free bandwagon. It isn't that they didn't want to. They just had a tough time producing cheeses that tasted good enough to eat.

But they seem to have gotten the hang of it now, and some pretty good cheese is showing up in the grocery store.

I'm particularly happy to find cheeses that work for Italian favorites.

Just last weekend, Bobbi whipped up a batch of low-fat manicotti and turned out a meal that was beautiful, tasty and totally in line with the new Food Guide Pyramid.

She started with a recipe from Dom DeLuise's cookbook, "Eat This . . . It'll Make You Feel Better," and just substituted reduced-fat cheese wherever possible.

She added chopped spinach to "bulk up" the filling and get in some beta carotene. She topped the whole thing off with Healthy Choice spa

ghetti sauce to further reduce fat.

Portion control (two manicotti per serving) limited fat further. Then she filled the plate with huge servings of steamed vegetables. Carrot strips, sliced yellow squash and broccoli florets flavored with basil made a colorful display and added fiber, beta carotene and cancer-fighter sulforophane.

Fresh strips of sweet red and green pepper added more color, a big dose of vitamin C and some cool, crisp crunch.

Bobbi's low-fat manicotti Large jar fat-free tomato sauce

1 pound fat-free ricotta cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

a few leaves of basil, chopped

24 giant manicotti shells

1 onion, finely chopped

1 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained

2 eggs (or egg substitute)

1/2 pound part skim mozzarella

4 tablespoon parsley, chopped

-- of pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoon olive oil

In a large bowl, combine eggs, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan parsley, basil and pepper.

Saute garlic and onion in oil. Add spinach. Cook briefly. Combine with cheese mixture. Put entire mixture in large plastic bag.

Cook manicotti shells in plenty of boiling water until al dente. Drain. Cut corner off bag containing cheese mixture. Use as "pastry tube" to fill each manicotti.

Cover the bottom of a large baking dish with about 1/2 -inch of spaghetti sauce. Bake, covered, in a 350 degree oven until hot and bubbly (about 30 minutes).

Hint for singles and small families: Instead of baking manicotti immediately, place on baking sheet so they do not touch. Freeze for 24 hours, then place in a plastic bag. Store in freezer. Bake two at a time in individual casserole dishes as needed.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore.

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