Here it is: the ultimate dinner on reserve. This wonderfully easy and so delicious recipe for stuffed pasta shells can be whipped up a few days in advance and sit in the fridge, or frozen for who-knows-how-long until you're desperate for a fast dinner. In my case, oh, 24 hours.
Having never stuffed anything before, I was a little wary. But really, this takes only a few minutes longer than spaghetti and is so much better. The shells are very forgiving and hold about two spoonfuls of filling each. I like the filling to overflow slightly from the top. Yum.
A tip for calorie reduction: use a low-fat ricotta and substitute in a few parts fat-free cottage cheese--doesn't hurt the taste, helps the waist. Yay.
A jar of marinara is fine, and of course easiest, but this dish is much better with a homemade marinara, if you have time. Just simmer a can of diced tomatoes, minced garlic and fresh spices of your choice in olive oil. Easy.
Also, maybe add fresh spinach, mushrooms or small pieces of meat to your filling. Experiment with different sauces. Enjoy!
Stuffed Pasta Shells
1, 12-ounce package jumbo pasta shells
4 C. ricotta cheese
3 C. shredded mozzarella
2 Tbsp. fresh Italian parsley
¾ tsp. dried oregano
3-4 C. marinara sauce
Directions: Cook pasta shells in boiling water for about 12 minutes. Drain and rinse under cool water. Spread out on foil lightly coated with cooking spray. In a large bowl, mix ingredients for filling. Stuff shells with about two spoonfuls. Spread a thin layer of marinara in a 9-by 13-inch pan. Place shells in pan and cover with remaining sauce. Sprinkle cheese on top (parmesan or mozzarella), if desired. Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake for five minutes. Serves four to six. (I had enough to also make an 8- by 8-inch pan for the freezer.)