Wednesday, December 8, 2010


These tasty little pasta shells are the perfect carrier for cheese and vegetables. Creamy ricotta pairs up with roasted veggies to make this dish not only delicious, but healthy! My vegetarian stuffed shells are great for large family meals or dividing up into smaller serving dishes and freezing for later. This versatile dish shows you how to go 'vegetarian' tonight and I promise, you won't miss the meat!

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
1 egg
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 before they are 'sauced']

[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.

-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.

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