Meatless Monday – Stuffed Shells

By the time I graduated college, I could feed myself the basics: veggies and salad, pasta, sandwiches, scrambled eggs, pancakes and brownies from a box, anything easy. My roommate, however, could cook. She often made stuffed shells and I watched to learn from her.

Fast-forward many years to Q expressing his delight in stuffed shells. Honestly, I can’t even remember how it came up. I hadn’t made them but decided it was time. Yet, and this still seems strange to me, I couldn’t find large shell pasta at the grocery store. I checked every time to no avail. Eventually, I stopped looking.

Recently, I was surprised to see a box of shell pasta on the grocery store shelf, sitting there as if it had always been sitting right there. Alrighty, kid, stuffed shells coming up! I filled our cart with veggies, cheese, and herbs.

The recipe below is a riff on three different recipes I came across, including one on the back of a box of Barilla manicotti. It is, however, my own recipe, what I did that resulted in a yummy dinner with enough to share with a friend and still have leftovers. It easily fed six of us if not more. And when I say “easily,” I mean it – I was surprised at how quickly the recipe came together. Add to regular meal rotation!

By the way, I use recipes as a guide and encourage you to do the same. You can add more or different veggies or use dried herbs if fresh aren’t in season.

Stuffed Pasta Shells
1 box large shell pasta
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
12 oz mushrooms, chopped
12 oz spinach, chopped
2 Tbsp dried Italian herb blend*
salt* & pepper to taste
12 oz ricotta cheese
2 c low-fat cottage cheese
1 c shredded mozzarella cheese, divided use
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 24 oz jar marinara sauce (you might need more)
2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta & cook for 9 minutes. Drain & set aside to cool.

Chop mushrooms & spinach. In a saute pan, heat olive oil & garlic. Add mushrooms & spinach with dried herbs & salt/pepper. Cook until mushrooms have browned & spinach is thoroughly wilted.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta & cottage cheese. Stir in 1/2 c mozzarella, then add mushroom & spinach mixture & chopped parsley. Taste & add salt/pepper if desired.

Grease a 9×13 baking dish & cover the bottom with sauce. Stuff shells with the filling & arrange the pasta in the dish in a single layer. Top with sauce & the rest of the mozzarella.

Cover the dish with foil & bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh basil before serving.

*I use Hollie’s Homegrown Herbs de Lamorinda & Francesca’s Favorite seasoning salt. Available online here.

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