1 box of jumbo pasta shells (you'll need about 30 shells, or a 10 oz. box)
1 medium sized eggplant
1 medium sized zucchini
1 small yellow onion (1/2-3/4 cup), small diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 large mushroom caps (such as crimini or button mushrooms), halved and sliced thin
1-2 handfuls fresh spinach
15 oz. ricotta cheese
pinch of nutmeg
1 tbs. prepared pesto
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
2-3 cups marinara sauce (jarred or homemade)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
extra virgin olive oil
-boil and prepare pasta shells according to directions
-peel eggplant, and cut it and the zucchini into 1/2" cubes
-place eggplant and zucchini on a large baking sheet
-drizzle about 2 tbs. olive oil on top of eggplant and zucchini, sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and toss to coat
-cook vegetables in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes
-meanwhile, in a medium sized skillet, warm 1 tbs. olive oil over medium-low heat
-add garlic, onion, and mushrooms and cook for 5-10 minutes until onion starts to turn transparent
-stir in the spinach and let it wilt in the warm mixture
-in a large mixing bowl, stir in beaten egg to the ricotta cheese
-add vegetables, onion mixture, pesto, parmesan cheese, and a pinch of nutmeg
-fill each shell with 1 heaping tablespoon of ricotta filling and place in a greased 13x9 casserole dish
-cover with marinara sauce and top with mozzarella cheese
-cook in a 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes, until cheese is melted and sauce is hot and bubbly
-serve and enjoy!
[shells after they are 'sauced' and baked]
serves approximately 4-6
These shells are a version of a creamy pesto vegetarian lasagna served at Vaccarro's Trattoria off of Ghent Road in Akron, Ohio.
TIPS and ADAPTATIONS:
-You can leave the egg out if you can't eat eggs!
-Add some meat to it such as: shredded chicken, crumbled sausage, or ground beef or pork.
-No time to cook and stuff the shells? Make this dish into a lasagna! Layer no-boil lasagna noodles with the ricotta filling and marinara sauce. Cook as directed on the noodle box.
-Put the shells into 2 8x10 casserole dishes, eat one now, and freeze one for later! Cover the dish you freeze with plastic wrap and then a layer of foil. Cook frozen shells at 350 degrees for 1.5-2 hours, until hot and bubbly.
-Need it milk free? If you can't find diary-free ricotta, try blending up some dairy-free cottage cheese in a blender or food processor. If the mixture is too thick, add a few splashes of chicken broth or water. Leave out out the additional cheeses, or use dairy-free cheese substitutes!
-No pesto? Chop up several fresh basil leaves or add in 1/2 tsp. dried basil or Italian herbs.
-Make it your own recipe: leave out the eggplant, add yellow squash, put in some more mushrooms...etc. Make it how YOU like it!
-Make it for a crowd! Double the recipe! Make ahead and keep in the fridge (for up to 24 hours) or freezer, and let it cook while you enjoy your company.