Monday, May 6, 2013

Lowfat Stuffed Shells

I'm a sucker for pasta. Pretty much every kind I've tried. There's something really wonderful about Italian food...
  • homey, hearty
  • rustic with simple ingredients
  • beautiful dishes, yet not TOO pretty to eat
  • a little mysterious (I didn't grow up with an Italian grandmother sharing all of her secrets)
  • and, best of all, it is meant to be shared!
 So let's share some shells...
Stuffed shells were a treat in college. Living in Boston and having a tight budget, ordering Italian takeout was a treat. It was especially good because I don't think I ever had REAL Italian until moving to Boston. And there are a ton of great Italian places in the city...mmm, it makes my mouth water just thinking about it. One of my roommates turned me on to stuffed shells. They were humongous, full of melted cheese and had this amazing sauce. The flavor was spectacular! 

So here's my first shot at making the home-version, which has a LOT less fat but hopefully is full of flavor still. This one uses jar marinara but, if you have time/access, I strongly recommend fresh sauce and fresh basil. Yummm.

Lowfat Stuffed Shells
serves 8 (4 shells each)

32 shells + 2 quarts water + large pot + dash salt
step one: In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Let pasta cook according to instructions on package. Once the shells are cooked, drain the water and lay the shells out in one layer on a dry towel. Set aside.

1 TB olive oil + large saute pan + 4 garlic cloves, chopped + 1 bell pepper, chopped + 1 onion, chopped
step two: Heat the saute pan on medium-high, adding oil. Saute bell pepper and onion and cook for 3 minutes. Then add garlic and saute for 2 more minutes. Set pan aside. 

large bowl + large spoon + 1 pint fat free cottage cheese (or ricotta) + 1/4 cup parmesan cheese + 16 oz. chopped spinach (if using frozen, thaw and squeeze out water) + sauteed veggies from pan + 1 TB Italian seasoning (or 3 TB fresh chopped basil) + 1 egg + 2/3 cup Italian breadcrumbs
step three: Combine all of these ingredients in a large bowl. This is your "stuffing" for the shells.

3 cups marinara + 9X11 baking pan + 8X8 baking pan + non-stick cooking spray
step four: Spray each baking pan with spray. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread 1/2 cup marinara in the bottom of each baking pan. 
step five: Using a spoon, stuff 2 TB of cheese mixture into each shell and place opening-down in each pan. Repeat the process until all of the shells are stuffed. [20 shells fit in the large pan and 12 fit in the smaller pan!]

1/4 cup parmesan + 1 1/2 cups 'Italian blend' shredded cheese [use mozzarella, more parm, pecorino romano, or your favorite cheese blend] + 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs [optional]
step six: After all of the shells are stuffed and arranged in the pans, pour the remaining 2 cups marinara over the shells. Sprinkle cheeses over the top and breadcrumbs [if you want a little extra crunch]. Bake for 30 minutes.

Adapted from: Recipe Girl, Live Better America

There you have it, stuffed shells! Serve with steamed veggies or a giant salad on the side. Enjoy the flavor without all of the takeout guilt. :)


Happy eating!

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