Monday, April 25, 2011

Saturday Special: Four-Cheese Stuffed Shells with Smoky Marinara

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I'm making this tonight because my grandmother is going to be in town and the last time I made it for her, she said it was one of the best things she's every had.  So, yeah, I'm going to treat her to this again.  :)  It takes some time to assemble, but otherwise, very simple.
Be VERY careful not to overcook the shells in the'll end up with mush.

But, the best part about this dish is the sauce.  You can find fire-roasted tomatoes near the rest of the canned ones.  Easy to make and tastes fabulous!  And works great on all kinds of pasta dishes.

** Keep in mind:  this makes 2 casserole dishes.  Great for large families OR just freeze one for the weekend or following week!  :)

**Okay, so every time I make these, I forget that there really isn't enough filling for all 40 shells.  So, next time, I would make a batch and a half. (doubling would be too much)  Plus, they don't really fill 2 9x13 pans, as you can see from my photos, I used one big one and one small one.

Smokey Marinara Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh or 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, undrained
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, basil, parsley, and oregano; sauté 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in vinegar and remaining ingredients. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.

Stuffed Shells

  • 1 pound jumbo shell pasta (40 shells)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 (12-ounce) carton 1% low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1 (15-ounce) carton ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Asiago cheese
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 6 cups Smoky Marinara (see recipe above)
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
  • Cook pasta till just firm, about a two minutes prior to recommended time, omitting salt and fat. Drain and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Coat 2 (13 x 9-inch) baking dishes with cooking spray; set aside.
  • Place cottage cheese and ricotta cheese in a food processor; process until smooth. Combine cottage cheese mixture, Asiago, and next 6 ingredients (Asiago through spinach).
  • Spoon or pipe 1 tablespoon cheese mixture into each shell. Arrange half of stuffed shells, seam sides up, in one prepared dish. Pour 3 cups Smoky Marinara over stuffed shells. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mozzarella. Repeat procedure with remaining stuffed shells, Smoky Marinara, and mozzarella in remaining prepared dish.
  • Cover with foil. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
  • To freeze unbaked casserole: Prepare through Step 5. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing to remove as much air as possible. Wrap with heavy-duty foil. Store in freezer for up to 2 months.
  • To prepare frozen unbaked casserole: Preheat oven to 375º. Remove foil; reserve foil. Remove plastic wrap; discard wrap. Cover frozen casserole with reserved foil; bake at 375º for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the shells are thoroughly heated.

Shells getting stuffed...

Looking good all covered in sauce.

lovely, lovely cheese

baked and ready to devour!!!


Charlotte said...

I wish I would have previewed this before dinner tonight! I'm making manicotti, and I cooked the pasta for the recommended time, but some were completely split open. :( Did I just cook them too long?

Click and Cook said...

Hi Charlotte! :) If you planned to bake your manicotti, then yes, you would have wanted to under cook the pasta. It'll cook more in the oven. You still may have some split, but most should hold their shape. I bet the sauce in this dish would taste awesome on your manicotti! I may have to try that! :)

Jenny said...

I made manicotti tonight too! Only one was broken in the box and none split after I boiled or baked them. I boiled them for 7 minutes and let them cool while I was making the ricotta mixture. How long did you boil them Charlotte? I also stuffed them with a small baby spoon which fit inside without splitting the manicotti.

Click and Cook said...

What recipe are you guys using for manicotti? I've never made it before.

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