I decided to wait and make the Stuffed Shells on a day when I knew we would be visiting some friends who had a baby recently so that I could take them some dinner. That turned out to be a very good decision indeed because this recipe makes A LOT.
This is the first time I have made this recipe and I followed the Cook Yourself Thin ladies pretty closely. Fair warning - this took me about two hours total to prepare and cook. That is way over my usual allotted time to make a meal, but what else is one to do on summer vacation?
First, cook a 12 oz box of large pasta shells. Reduce the cooking time by at least five minutes because you are going to bake them later and you don't want them to be like bricks. Lay them out on wax paper to cool while you make the sauce and stuffing.
For the sauce, pulse 42 ounces of peeled plum tomatoes in juice in a food processor. Saute 3/4 c. chopped red onion and 4 thinly sliced cloves of garlic in a pan, then add the tomatoes and juice, 2 sprigs of fresh basil, and a little salt and pepper. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for about 20 minutes until it thickens. By the way, guess who added another clove or two of garlic? Love the stuff!
For the stuffing, you'll need to chop 2 medium zucchini, 2 scallions, and 1 slice of ham. Here's a view of the chopping block:
For the stuffing, you are going to saute 1 lb of fresh baby spinach with a 1/2 tsp. of salt until the spinach is wilted. I transferred the spinach to a colander to squeeze out as much excess water as possible. Don't skip that step or you'll have soupy stuffing. In the same skillet, saute the zucchini until it is pretty and brownish, then toss the scallions in for a minute or so. Add all that to the spinach in a medium bowl along with the ham, 2 c. of part-skim ricotta, 2tbsp. chopped parsley, 1/2 c. of shredded reduced-fat, part-skim mozzarella, and pepper. Now here's a little magic: grate some fresh nutmeg in the mixture. Fresh nutmeg is $16.99 a pound, but you only need one nut, so it will cost you about 12 cents.
I wish I would have modified the recipe at this point. In the end result, the ricotta in the stuffing took over the flavor. If I make this one again, I will add some fresh black pepper, oregano, italian seasong.... something!
Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Stuff each shell and line the dish like so:
Spread the remainder of the sauce on top and sprinkle with 1/2 c. of mozzarella and 1/4 c. of parmesan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.
Four shells is one serving and about 331 calories. What's the verdict? These shells with fill your time and your belly, but they need a little flavor-oomph to make it worth the effort. I shared with our friends and they did enjoy this recipe quite a bit, so don't let my so-so review scare you away.
Next time: Basil Turkey Burgers and Sweet Potato Fries