Monday, October 25, 2010

Stuffed Baked Shells

Last week, I had a craving for pasta. I dug through a few cookbooks & magazines and finally decided to get creative and throw together my own (simple) version of Stuffed Baked Shells. I'll be honest, I've never made any type of baked pasta before - not even a lasagna. For my first attempt, I'd say it turned out pretty darn good!


* 1.5 or 2 links Turkey Italian Sausage, casings removed
* 3 cups fresh baby spinach
* 1 (15 oz.) container low-fat ricotta cheese
* 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
* 1/2 cup low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese (plus more for sprinkling)
* 1 egg yolk
* 1 tsp. dried basil
* 1/2 tsp. black pepper
* 20 jumbo pasta shells
* 3 cups pasta sauce


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta shells according to directions on the package, boiling 2 minutes less than suggested. Drain & set aside until cool enough to handle.

2. Brown sausage (casings removed) in a skillet until cooked through. Drain any excess grease & stir in spinach until wilted. Set aside to cool.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the cheeses, egg yolk, basil & pepper.

4. Next, fold the sausage/spinach mixture into the cheese filling.

5. Pour 3/4 cup pasta sauce into a slightly greased baking dish and spread to cover the bottom.

6. Spoon filling into cooked shells (approx. 2 Tbsp each)

And arrange in the baking dish.

7. Pour remaining pasta sauce over the top of the shells.

8. Bake for 25 minutes, sprinkling a bit of mozzarella over the shells during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

My Tid-Bits:

* There are several substitutes you can make for the filling. If you don't like Italian sausage, use plain old ground beef or turkey instead. You can also use frozen spinach in place of the fresh, just be sure to defrost & squeeze as much moisture out of it before combining it with the rest of the filling.

* This recipe made enough for me to fill 20 pasta shells. However, there was NO WAY that The Hubs & I were going to eat that many, so I baked some & froze some. I put the portion I wanted to freeze in a disposable aluminum baking dish. Next time we want to enjoy some stuffed shells, I'll simply let them defrost in the refrigerator over night & bake as usual.

* Since this freezes well, it's also a great meal for taking to someone who may be sick or perhaps is a new mom with her hands full!

* Lastly, if we call 3 shells a serving (which was plenty for me), each serving has less than 400 calories. For a pasta stuffed with cheese, that's not too bad.


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