May 24, 2009

Stuffed Shells

This stuff shelled dish has been streamlined from most of the cheese-laden dishes to a healthier tastier one. Spinach, mustard greens, and onions replace over half the cheese that is used in regular cheesey stuffed shell recipes. The stuffing can easily be used in lasagna or manicotti as well. Assemble ahead of time, and pop in the oven for a quick weeknight meal. While it cooks you can prepare a salad or other side dish. Serves 4. If preparing the entire box of shells, double the ingredient amounts below.

Stuffed Shells Recipe
1/2 of a package large shells
1 bottle marinara sauce (you'll use maybe 1-2 cups, I use the Trader Joe's low-salt marinara). If using regular marinara omit salt below, but adjust as needed.

The cheese mixture:
8 oz ricotta cheese
3/4 - 1 cup shredded cheese (Italian pre-shredded mix)
1-2 T shredded parmesan
1 egg
1 tsp dried Italian herbs
1 tsp dried basil (opt for fresh herbs if you have them)
salt and pepper to taste
pinch cayenne or 1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 carrot, shredded (set aside - it'll be one of the last things you'll do)

The veggies:
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped or diced fine.
10 oz frozen spinach
8 oz chopped mustard greens (8 oz frozen, or 1-2 cups fresh)
1-2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed

1. Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Add in garlic through mustard greens. Stir often, until cooked through.
2. While the veggies are cooking, combine the ricotta and egg, and gradually add in shredded cheeses, spices, and herbs. Adjust for salt and pepper and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, top with the shredded carrot and crushed fennel and mix into the ricotta.
3. Bring a 4 quart-sized pot to boil, and once the water is boiling, add in shells. Cook until halfway through. If you cook them to al dente, they tend to break apart when stuffing. I add in a little oil to the pot while everything is boiling. I also only bring it to a gentle boil. When done, drain and rinse with cool water. Reserve some of the water in the same pot with the shells so they don't stick to each other and break.
4. If cooking, preheat oven to 350. Oil a nonstick oven proof casserole dish and place 1/2 to 1 cup of the marinara at the bottom.
5. One by one, stuff shells with spoonfuls of the ricotta veggie mixture and place in the pan.

When finished, top the shells with a generous portion of marinara and garnish with some shredded parmesan and Italian cheese blend mix.
6. Cover with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes. The foil keeps the marinara sauce from evaporating.

Note: If preparing to serve later in the week wrap casserole in airtight plastic wrap, and set in fridge until ready to use. Save your garnishes (marinara and cheese) for right before you put in the oven.

I hope you enjoy!

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