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I grew up in a small tourist town in northern Michigan. When I was young, I spent hours trying to catch perch, bluegill and sunfish from my grandfather’s small boat on Lake Michigan and from my great grandparents’ backyard which butted up to the much smaller Hamlin Lake. Yet despite all of the time I spent fishing for Nemo, I never developed a taste for fish (or any seafood for that matter). I’ve tried it all – it’s just not my thing. Apologies to those of you who may have been hoping for new fabulous recipes full of shrimp, salmon and scallops. The very thought of it makes me cringe!

I do, however, enjoy the occasional vegetarian dish for dinner.  After all, there are only so many ways to prepare beef and chicken on a busy weeknight. This recipe for stuffed pasta shells has become one of our go-to vegetarian meals. It’s easy to make and delicious. When I make it for just my husband, Evan, and myself, there is always enough leftover to throw at least two meals in the freezer for another day.

As you can see, there aren’t that many ingredients. To keep this recipe fast, I use a jar of pre-made marinara sauce instead of making my own. Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees. Fill a stock pot with water and set it on the stove to boil. Once the water is boiling nicely, add your jumbo pasta shells and cook until al dente.

While the pasta shells are cooking, mix together two 15 ounce packages ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 2 cups chopped baby spinach, 1 cup chopped broccoli, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. I prefer to use one package of regular ricotta and one package of fat free ricotta, but feel free to use any variation of the two you prefer.

 

 

I’ve always found it easiest to mix the cheeses and seasonings together before adding the chopped veggies. I feel like you get a more even blend this way.

 

Once the shells are done, drain and rinse them in cool water to stop the cooking process. Cover the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking dish with the entire jar of pasta sauce. Now you are ready to start stuffing your shells! You could use a spoon to do the stuffing, but I prefer to just use my hands. I pack the shells with as much of the cheese and vegetable mixture as will fit.

Once all of your shells are stuffed and your baking dish is full, top off the shells with a cup of shredded mozzarella. I will admit it:  I used more than the one cup the recipe calls for. I can’t help it. It’s CHEESE!

Now your shells are ready to go into the oven. Bake them for about 20 minutes. I wait until the cheese on top is nice and melty and the sauce is bubbling. Then put it under the broiler for a minute or two to brown the top. Be sure to keep a close eye on it – the broiler works fast!

Let it cool for a few minutes, serve and ENJOY!

Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells


Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

20 jumbo pasta shells
1 24-ounce jar marinara sauce
2 15-ounce packages ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cups baby spinach, chopped
1 cup broccoli, chopped
1 cup shredded mozzarella

1.  Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Cook pasta shells until al dente, drain and rinse with cold water.

2.  While the shells are cooking, mix together the ricotta, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Once combined, mix in the chopped spinach and broccoli.

3.  Spread the marinara sauce to cover the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.

4.  Stuff each shell with your cheese/veggie mixture and gently place it on top of the sauce.  Once you have filled all shells, sprinkle them with the mozzarella cheese.  Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbling and the mozzarella is slightly melted.  Broil for a minute or two until golden.  Cool and eat!


Main Courses, Pasta, Vegetarian