Tuesday, December 8, 2009

In Valorie's Kitchen: Broccoli Stuffed Shells

Pasta. It's one of my favorite comfort foods and is so versatile. But being so full of calories in the ways I like to prepare it, I'm lucky if it makes the way to my dinner table more than once a week. I'm always looking for ways to make my pasta dishes more lean and/or more nutritious without serving a skimpy marinara over noodles because, hey, that gets old after a while.

One of my favorite pasta tricks is to use the Barilla Plus noodles which are made with whole wheat, omega-3 fatty acids, and egg protein for added nutritional benefits. The texture is way better than most of the other crumbly, whole-grain noodle varieties available, but it doesn't come in one of my favorite shapes: jumbo shells!

So when I make my favorite stuffed pasta dish, I have to settle for a reduced-fat filling and regular shells, but it's still full of good-for-you ingredients without a lengthy or complicated recipe.

15 ounce box of jumbo pasta shells
15 ounce carton of reduced-fat ricotta cheese
24 ounce jar of prepared marinara sauce
10 ounce package frozen, chopped broccoli (thawed)
4 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon each fresh basil and oregano leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon each dried), finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup grated, reduced-fat mozarella cheese
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 400° and then prepare the pasta shells according to package directions.

While they're boiling, combine the ricotta cheese, broccoli, mushrooms, seasonings, and 3 tablespoons of the marinara sauce in a bowl. Whisk these ingredients together until evenly mixed and set aside.

Spread about half of the remaining sauce evenly across the bottom of a shallow baking dish. This will give the shells a sauce to cook in and will also keep them from sticking to your dish.

Next, drain the cooked pasta shells and rinse them thoroughly with cool water and then shake off any excess moisture. They need to be cool enough to handle and not dripping wet.

Gently open each shell and spoon in 2-3 teaspoons of the filling. Do this carefully, as they are delicate and tend to rip easily.

Once filled, place each shell upright into your baking dish. Repeat until your dish is full.

Spread the remaining sauce over the shells. Cover evenly with the mozarella cheese and then sprinkle the Parmesan last. Bake uncovered at 400° for 25-30 minutes, or until the cheeses are melted and beginning to brown on top. Serve with your favorite salad.

Yields about 4 servings

> Click here for a printable recipe card.

I hope you enjoyed Valorie's contribution to the lillyella kitchen this week! You can browse more of Valorie's recipes on her site Kitchen Improv and find previous In The Kitchen posts here.

Stop back on December 22 for the last In The Kitchen post of 2009 where I'll share some delicious holiday drink recipes!


Jewllori by Lori said...

I'm totally going to try this one! I love anything casserole, and anything Italian!

balanced. said...

Mmmm, oh man, that looks good!

Amy B. said...

My tummy rumbled the moment I saw that picture. Making this recipe very soon for sure!

Peg said...

This looks yummy and I am going to try it. However, I am confused as to when the sauce goes in. If I read correctly, it says to put a bit in with the filling and then put half of the remaining sauce in the bottom of the dish (before you add the shells). I assume you put the other half on top of the shells, before the cheese? Want to make sure.

Thanks for sharing!

Best, Peg

Valorie said...


Maybe I missed that step! YES! The last of the sauce gets spread over the top, right before the cheese.

Coincidentally this was on our family menu last night. A variation I tried this time was to sautee the mushrooms in olive oil, white wine, and a little salt. This made for a more mushroomy flavor for people who like that.

Also, try replacing the broccoli with thawed chopped spinach.


lillyella said...

Ive updated the post and recipe card - thanks!

Gifted Designs said...

I am soooo drooling right now!