March 2, 2011

Stuffed Shells

I love making these little cuties for large gatherings, as well as weekday dinners. You can add just about anything from mini-meatballs to turkey sausage, but for tonight, I chose fresh, organic baby spinach. Enjoy!

Baked Stuffed Shells
(makes 24 shells/serves 8)

24 uncooked pasta shells (large size)
olive oil
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 jar vodka sauce (favorite store brand)
4-6 fresh basil leaves, torn
16 oz. part-skim ricotta
1 cup grated parmesan
1 egg
16 oz. organic baby spinach, cooked/drained
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced

Bring a large pot of salt water to a boil. Add the pasta shells, cook for 8 minutes, then drain and rinse with cold water.
Place shells on waxed paper to dry.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make the tomato sauce:

Fresh basil makes this sauce taste totally homemade...
Saute the onion and garlic together in a bit of olive oil till soft. Add crushed tomatoes, vodka sauce, and torn basil leaves.  Simmer for 15 minutes.

Make the cheese filling:

If you can find this brand of ricotta, grab it! It tastes wonderful...
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, egg, salt/pepper, and 3/4 cup parmesan cheese.
Mix well, then add the drained spinach, (be sure the water is squeezed from the spinach before adding it to the cheese mixture. Use paper towels or your hands).
Evenly coat the bottom of a 13x9 casserole dish with tomato sauce. Using a teaspoon, fill each pasta shell with cheese mixture.
Place shells together in pan, edges touching. Spoon additional tomato sauce over the top of shells and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup parmesan. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Food For Thought: A Word About Spinach
The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit protection research organization, placed spinach on its 2003 list of twelve foods most contaminated with pesticides. More than ever, a good reason to buy organic.

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