The shells she sells are surely seashells.
So if she sells shells on the seashore,
I’m sure she sells seashore shells.
One of hubby’s and my favorite meatless meals — even before we began making a focus of one meatless meal a week — is Spinach Cheesy Stuffed Shells. I came across this recipe in a Kraft Diabetic Choices cooking magazine I have, and we just love it! It’s elegant and festive enough for company or a holiday, yet simple and easy enough — especially when you use a commercially-prepared pasta sauce — for a regular family dinner.
I usually make my own pasta sauce, but I do always like to keep a tin or two of Hunt’s Pasta Sauce in my pantry for a quick, easy meal. For example, I’ve found that it’s just the right amount of sauce for a frozen (or refrigerated) bag of ravioli. It’s also just the right amount of sauce for when I make stuffed shells — I figure I’m already futzing with stuffing the pasta shells, so unless I’m feeling especially like puttering in the kitchen, I usually make it easy on myself and doctor up a can of Hunt’s Pasta Sauce.
Hunt’s Pasta Sauce comes in a variety of flavors, but I usually get either the Garlic & Herb or the No-Sugar-Added sauce, although I’ve found that the No-Sugar-Added sauce is thinner and more watery than the others.
The process is really pretty simple: Mix together 2 cups reduced-fat cottage cheese or ricotta with a packet of salad dressing mix (Italian, Zesty Italian, Garlic and Herb, whatever floats your boat) and an egg (or 1/4 cup egg substitute). Add in a sprinkle of grated Parmesan (vegetarians, use an alternative) or other such cheese of choice, about a half cup (2 ounces) of mozzarella cheese (shredded, grated, or torn into wee bits), a thawed and WELL DRAINED 10 ounce package of frozen spinach, and a seeded and diced red, yellow, or orange bell pepper. Lightly oil or spray a 13″X9″ baking pan and spread a thin layer of pasta sauce along the bottom. Then place a heaping spoonful of this filling into 20 well-drained jumbo pasta shells that have been cooked al dente and place them in the pan:
The contrasting color of the pepper makes it especially festive. The original recipe calls for red bell pepper, but this last time I made it, I chose to use an orange pepper.Top with the remaining pasta sauce and sprinkle with a wee bit of grated Parmesan and/or Three Cheese Blend or whatever makes you happy. (This looks as though it’s a lot of cheese, but honestly, it’s just a sprinkle — it melts right into the shells and the sauce):
Cover with foil (do yourself a favor and light spray with cooking spray or oil the side of the foil that will be facing the food) and bake. Then remove the foil, top with another 1/2 cup or so (about 2 ounces) of shredded, grated, or torn mozzarella cheese, and bake, uncovered, until cheese melts. Let rest 10 to 15 minutes, et voila — a yummy supper!
This smells — and tastes! — so yummy, you’ll find yourself humming The Spinach Rag (go on, give it a listen — you know you want to!):
Not a fan of bell pepper of any color? Substitute the equivalent (1 to 1 1/4 cups) of another veggie — grated carrot, diced/sliced mushroom, diced yellow squash, diced zucchini, peeled and diced eggplant (be sure and salt it and let it “sweat” in a colander first) — whatever makes you happy. Just remember that the more contrasting the color from the green of the spinach, the more visually appealing it will be.
Spinach Cheesy Stuffed Shells (Serves 5)
- 20 jumbo shells, cooked al dente (about 6 ounces)
- 1 package (10 ounces) frozen spinach, thawed and drained/squeezed free from liquid
- Approximately 2 cups (15 – 16 ounces) reduced-fat cottage cheese or part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute
- Packet (0.7 ounces) of salad dressing mix (Italian, Zesty Italian, Garlic & Herb, whatever makes you happy)
- Approximately 1 cup (4 ounces) grated, shredded, or torn mozzarella cheese
- Optional: Grated Parmesan to taste (Vegetarians, leave out or use a vegetarian substitute) and/or grated Three Cheese Blend to taste
- 1 can (26 ounces) Hunt’s Pasta Sauce
- Additional seasonings for sauce to taste: Worcestershire sauce (vegetarians, leave out or use a vegetarian substitute), red pepper flakes, basil, Italian seasoning, oregano, parsley, and a splash of red wine, if desired
- In a medium-sized bowl, stir together cottage cheese or ricotta cheese, egg, a bit of grated Parmesan and/or Three Cheese Blend (or Romano) (if using), and salad dressing mix. Stir in about 1/2 of the mozzarella, the spinach, and the chopped pepper. (Don’t have a pepper? Read post above for suggested substitutes.)
- Cook jumbo pasta shells in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and rinse with cool water so that you will be able to handle them. (If desired, also gently dry them with a paper towel before filling).
- Season pasta sauce as desired with additional seasonings.
- Lightly oil or spray with cooking spray a 13″x9″ pan. Spread a small amount of pasta sauce (1/2 to 1 cup) along the bottom of the pan.
- Gently fill each pasta shell with the cheese/spinach mixture. Place in prepared 13″x9″ pan. Add in remaining pasta sauce. Sprinkle lightly with some grated Parmesan and/or Three Cheese Blend (or other finely grated cheese) if desired.
- Cover pan with foil and place in oven. (Tip: Lightly spray with cooking spray or oil the side of the foil that will be facing the food.) Bake at 350F (no need to preheat!) for 1 hour. Remove foil and top with remaining 1/2 cup shredded, grated, or torn mozzarella cheese and finish baking until cheese is melted and all is bubbly and heated through, another 15 minutes.
- Let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
- Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.