Making in the Kitchen: Stuffed Pasta Shells
This is a delicious version of the stuffed pasta shell. There are many out there. Mine uses cottage cheese instead of ricotta and lots of nutritious spinach. Most people have that special “go-to” meal that they make when having company. You use it all the time because you know it’s good, and you won’t screw it up. This is one of mine. I love it because I can make it ahead of time and then pop it in the oven just before the guests arrive. They walk into yummy Italian aromas and I don’t have to be sequestered to the kitchen till dinner time. This meal can also easily be made vegetarian by omitting the beef from the sauce. It is equally as delicious that way!
This recipe came from the one and only, Nona G. Neff.
You will need the following:
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1/2 onion
- 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
- 1 12 oz. pkg jumbo pasta shells
- 2 c. cottage cheese
- 4 oz. mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 t. salt, dash pepper to taste
- 1 egg
- parmesan to taste
- 5 oz. frozen spinach, cooked and drained (half of one of those frozen packs)
First things first: Get your pot of water going on the stove to boil the shells. Cook them to al dente, then drain and cool. Another thing to get started early on in this is the spinach. It takes several minutes to cook/defrost in the microwave.
While those things are going, brown the ground beef with the onion till done. Then add your sauce. I ended up only using one of those cans. And yes, I used Hunt’s Pasta Sauce. I know it doesn’t seem like it could be good…but I’m telling you….their Zesty and Spicy sauce really is fantastic and has a nice kick of heat to it. Plus it’s only 99 cents. Can’t beat that! Also, depending on how you like your sauce, you could add some garlic to the meat/onion mixture just before it’s done cooking. I usually add a minced clove or two.
While your beef mixture is cooking, mix together the stuffing mix: cottage cheese, mozzarella, salt & pepper, egg, parmesan and spinach (which has been cooked according to package directions). If you like things more cheesy, add more mozzarella and/or parmesan. You really can’t mess that up. One note though…I once thought I’d make them even healthier by using the entire block of spinach. It was too much. So I would recommend sticking to only 5 oz.
When your shells are cooled enough to handle, you’re ready to stuff them. But first, spray your 9×13 pan with cooking spray and spoon just a little bit of sauce on the bottom to coat. Spoon about 2 T. of filling into each shell and line up like shown, with the shell opening facing up.
Next, pour your meat sauce over the top. You can sprinkle parmesan over that as well. At this point you can bake it, or cover and refrigerate till later. It also freezes great. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. (If you’ve pulled it from the fridge, add another 15 min. or so.) Sometimes I like to sprinkle shredded mozzarella over the top about 10 minutes prior to finishing. It just makes it look even more delicious.
My sister-in-law also reminded me that this is typically the dish I make for people when they have babies. It’s a nice change from that frozen lasagna you always get.
Try it out and let me know what you think!