Thursday, December 9, 2010

Make-them-your-own Italian Stuffed Shells

We've been on a bit of a red and green kick here at the Sweet Pea home. Decorations, wrapping paper and yes, even our food. I developed a new appetizer dip using red pepper and spinach (recipe due to post on next week) which was just bursting with Christmas colors. Now I want to share another favorite dish that is ripe for red and green: Make-them-your-own Italian Stuffed Shells.

This recipe is for basic stuffed shells to which you add either sauteed vegetables or ground meat. In fact, you can easily use this recipe to customize your meal and make, for example, half vegetarian and half with meat...perfect for holiday or group gatherings when you need to accommodate Aunt Linda's mushroom aversion and cousin Julian's new vegetarian diet.

Lastly, this recipe makes enough for 2 - 9x13 dishes...freeze one for later or share!

Make-them-your-own Italian Stuffed Shells

1 - 12 ounce jumbo shells package
32 ounce container reduced fat ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided use
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1-2 cups sauteed vegetables or meat (we used a combination of eggplant and mushroom, but spinach, bell peppers, broccoli, or ground beef or Italian sausage would work great)
2 - 28 ounce jars marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook the pasta shells according to the package instructions. Drain, drizzle with a teaspoon of oil (to help prevent sticking) and set aside.

In a large bowl mix the ricotta cheese, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir well. Add vegetables and/or meat and stir again.

Pour one jar of the marinara sauce in each of the bottoms of the 9x13 pans.

Taking one shell at a time, add 1-2 tablespoons of the filling. Place on top of the marinara and nestle in, so the sauce comes up around the shell. Repeat until all the shells are filled.

Sprinkle remaining one cup of mozzarella cheese on top of the shells. Bake 35-45 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melted.

You may also cover the pan with foil and freeze. If you do this, be sure to let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator before baking, and add up to 15 minutes to the bake time.

Serves 6 (per pan).

Have a sweet day,

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