Monday, August 13, 2007

In the Middle of August!?

Sometimes men make the strangest requests. Like baked stuffed shells in the middle of August. Whatever. We have had the air conditioning on full blast, so I figured I might as well. This concoction is basically my mother's most requested lasagna that I adapted into a recipe for spinach stuffed shells. This is definitely a very homey, comfort casserole. It makes a TON, and is great for a casual crowd (esp. a crowd of omnivores, pescetarians, and vegetarians...they'll never miss the meat!). It also freezes beautifully. To freeze, place cooled shells in foil three at a time. When it's time for a no hassle meal, simply pop a packet into a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, make a quick tossed salad and presto! - dinner. Better than Lean Cuisine as far as I'm concerned.
this is dedicated to my vibrantly beautiful and fabulous mother


RECIPE:
Spinach Stuffed Shells
  • 24 pieces jumbo shell pasta
  • 32 oz container of part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz package of shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 16 oz bad of thawed frozen spinach
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese plus 1/8
  • 2 lightly beaten eggs
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1tbsp oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • handful of toasted pine nuts
  • one large jars of a favorite marinara or a batch of my favorite 'home-made'
  • (recipe below)
  • preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • bring a large pot of salted water to boil and boil shells for about 8 minutes, they should be slightly underdone as they will continue to cook in the oven
  • meanwhile, squeeze the spinach handful by handful over the sink to remove water
  • mix together the cheeses reserving about 1/2 c of the mozzarella and the 1/8 c parmesan and then add the eggs, spinach, garlic powder, salt, pepper and mix until well combined
  • drain the shells and rinse with cold water until they're cool enough to comfortably handle
  • fill the bottom of and 9 by 13 inch baking dish with about 1 1/2 inches of the tomato sauce
  • fill each shell with filling until heaping and place shells into the baking dish with 6 shells across and 4 shells down
  • gently and evenly pour the remaining sauce over the shells
  • evenly sprinkle the remaining cheeses over the top
  • cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes, remove foil, and bake another 10 minutes or until lightly golden and bubbly - oh and it should weigh about 50 pounds, so be careful
  • remove from oven and sprinkle the toasted pine nuts and some fresh, minced parsley on top
  • let sit about 10 minutes and serve with a big, crunchy tossed salad and crusty bread (inviting friends over is a good idea too)
Recipe:
My Favorite Tomato Marinara Sauce
  • 2 32 oz cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1/2 c dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp of dried, crushed thyme leaves
  • 1-2 tsp salt (to taste)
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • heat the oil over medium low heat and add the garlic, cook 1-2 minutes until fragrant
  • add the rest of the ingredients, cover, raise heat, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 10 more minutes
This sauce is great for pasta dishes and also as a dipping sauce for batter fried calamari or mozzarella sicks (recipes to come!)

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