Workin’ Food: Vegetable Stuffed Shells with Meaty Artichoke Sauce

You may or may not have noticed that I haven’t been posting about food lately.  Which is odd, since I usually talk about food most of the time.  

Have no fear.  We’re eating as heartily as ever.  It’s just that our kitchen looks like it exploded, and we may or may not have accidentally ruined a library cookbook.  Sad.

But today is clean up the house day, and that means there’s room in my brain to think about food again.  I’ve been saving this recipe for blog consumption because I tweak it just about every time we try it.  This has been my most faithful recipe for the last 8 years, minor adjustments and all.  It was super fancy back in the day, and I would still serve it to guests.  The awesome thing about it is that it’s much healthier than your average stuffed shells, and it’s still rich and delicious.  Plus, we added some meat.  It’s good. 

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So, what would you need to make these Vegetable Stuffed Shells with Meaty Artichoke Sauce?

Ingredients:

• 24 jumbo pasta shells (less than 1 box)

• 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

• 1 lb. ground beef (or turkey, if you prefer)

• 8 oz. sliced mushrooms 

• 1 can (14.5 oz) no-salt-added diced tomatoes

• 1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped

• 1 pkg (10 oz) frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (or 1/2 a bag of fresh spinach, but that’s harder to smush into the shells)

• 1 1/2 cup 1% cottage cheese

• 2 medium carrots, shredded

• 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

• 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

• 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

• 1-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper

• 1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese (2 oz)

And how do you make these magical shells?  Glad you asked.

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare pasta per package directions (reduce cooking time by 2 to 3 minutes).

2.  Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and brown for 3-4 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes (with juice), artichokes, and crushed red pepper. Simmer 4 minutes.

3.  Combine remaining ingredients except mozzarella in large bowl. Spray 9 x 13” baking dish with cooking spray. Fill shells with mixture and place into large baking dish. Spoon desired amount of sauce over each (all for us, but you might like your food less saucy). Cover loosely with foil and bake 20 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and bake uncovered 10 minutes or until bubbly.

4.  Enjoy! The leftovers are delicious, too.

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