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Stuffed Shells

January 14, 2010

Back in June, a friend reviewed Cook Yourself Thin and made it sound decently interesting.  Jump forward a few months and I’ve finally found time to take a look.  Here’s one of the dishes:  baked stuffed shells.

You will want:

  • 1 box (12-oz) jumbo pasta shells (approximately 40 shells)
  • 1 can (28-oz) peeled plum tomatoes in juice
  • 1 can (14-oz) peeled plum tomatoes in juice
  • 4 t olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 c red onion, roughly chopped (a little more than 1/2 an onion)
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh basil, minced (I like to cut it up with kitchen scissors in a little bowl)
  • Salt &pepper
  • 1-lb bag baby spinach, chopped (or 1 thawed box of chopped — well drained)
  • 2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 c (16 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 thin slices of ham, chopped
  • 1 1/2 c shredded reduced-fat, part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 2 T chopped parsley
  • 1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
  • Pinch grated nutmeg

Then you…

  1. Spray a baking sheet lightly with cooking spray. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the shells, and partially cook 6 to 7 minutes — they should have started to become tender but will still be firm to the bite. Drain in a colander and immediately transfer to the oiled baking sheet, spreading them out in a single layer so that they don’t stick together. Let cool.
  2. For the sauce, pour the tomatoes into a bowl and mash with your hands, or pulse in food processor to chop.
  3. Heat 2 t oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Cover, reduce heat to very low and cook until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes with juice, basil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, cover and simmer gently 5 minutes. Then simmer very gently, partially covered, until thickened, about 20 minutes. Season with 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
  5. In a skillet, cook the spinach and 1/2 t salt over medium heat, covered. Tossing every now and then for even cooking, until wilted, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain, and let cool, then squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Transfer to a bowl; set aside.
  6. In the same skillet, heat 2 t oil over medium heat. Add the zucchini and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring every now and then, until tender and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add scallions during the final 1 minute. Add to the bowl with the spinach. Add the ricotta, ham, half of the parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, the parsley, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and the nutmeg, and stir to combine.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  8. Spoon a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of a 9-x-13-inch baking dish. Fill the cooked shells with the cheese mixture, about 1 tablespoon per shell, and arrange the shells side by side in a single layer. Spoon the remaining sauce over the shells, and then sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan.
  9. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake until the filling is heated through and the cheese is melted, 25 to 30 minutes.

I took the foil off at the very end to let the cheese brown and get a little crispy.  Yumm!  If you wanted to make it vegetarian, just leave out the ham.

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