Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Four-Cheese Stuffed Shells with Smoky Marinara

This is one of the best pasta dishes I have tried in awhile. It has a delicious homemade marinara sauce and a cheese stuffing that is so good. My kids gobbled it up. I pureed the marinara sauce in the blender because my husband doens't like big chunks of tomatoes in anything and I think it enhanced the sauce by really melding the flavors together. This can also be made with whatever herbs and cheeses you have on hand, plus it makes two casserole dishes so you can freeze one for another night. My kind of recipe, this one is definitely a keeper.

Four-Cheese Stuffed Shells with Smoky Marinara
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*
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
Cook pasta according to package directions, 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.
*Smoky Marinara
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.