Thursday, April 4, 2013

Spinach & Mushroom Stuffed Shells

Monday nights are always meatless in our house.  Many times I do some sort of seafood, but I have done quite a few vegetarian dishes as well.  I got this idea from a Food Network Magazine and thought, "Perfect!".  We love spinach, mushrooms and Italian!  And I have fond memories of stuffed shells from my childhood.  These were yummy!!! 

I definitely adapted the recipe to make it my own and enlisted my toddler to help me make dinner.  It's his new favorite thing since he stopped taking his nap after school.  He wants to cook, bake, or "help" me around the house.  So not only it this recipe delicious, it's fun to make with your kids.  My husband isn't a fan of ricotta cheese, or lots of it.  So I decided to make this a little less cheesy of a filling, more vegetables, and I used cottage cheese to boost the protein factor.  I have heard that most people's concern with using cottage cheese is that they are afraid it won't be as creamy as ricotta.  All you need to do is use a blender or food processor (as I did in this recipe) and you will have the same texture, no problem.  It's also a great way to incorporate other flavors into the filling and avoiding extra chopping.  I hope you give these a try!

Happy Cooking!

Spinach and Mushrooms Stuffed Shells
An original recipe inspired by: 
20-24 jumbo shells, cooked, drained, and rinsed  (I made the entire box because my kids LOVE to eat the big shells plain)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
12 ounces of sliced mushrooms (I just used button mushrooms but whatever is on sale will do)
1 10 oz pkg of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 jar of your favorite jarred marinara (or 3-4 cups of homemade)
1 cup low-fat small curd cottage cheese (I used 4%)
1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves
1 large egg
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
3/4 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, plus 1/2 cup for top of shells

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  While the pasta is cooking, start making the filling.  In a food processor or blender (I used my mini-processor) puree the cottage cheese until smooth.  Add the fresh basil and egg and process until well incorporated.  Set aside.

Heat 2 T of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. 
The veggies
My 3 year old stirring the onions.
Add the mushrooms and 1/4 tsp of salt, stir to combine.  Cook mushrooms until soft, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds.  Finally, add the spinach and stir until heated through.  Pour the mixture into a bowl and allow it to cool completely. 

Mushrooms are done!
Add the spinach and stir until heated through and extra moisture has evaporated.
Once the vegetables have cooled, add the cottage cheese and herb mixture, along with the parmesan and 3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese.  Mix until well combined.  Season with salt & pepper to taste.

In a 9x13 inch pan, pour 1/3 of the jar of sauce evenly over the bottom of the pan.  Stuff the shells with about 1/4-1/3 cup of filling each.  (I used 20 shells, but you may find you use a little more or less depending on how full you make them).  Pour the rest of the sauce evenly over the top.

They already look so good!
Ready for the oven.
Bake the shells for 30 minutes covered in aluminum foil.  After those 30 minutes, take the aluminum foil off and continue to bake uncovered for an additional 30 minutes or until bubbly.  Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese and broil for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.  Serve immediately!  We had a big ceasar salad with this and it was awesome!  Enjoy!!!

Ready for the cheese after 60 minutes in the oven.

And ready to eat!

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