As much as I love to eat new and exciting foods and try not to shy away from new things, at the end of the day, good old fashioned Italian comfort foods really are my favorite.
I was craving some lasagna but needed to find a way to cut out at least most of the cheese to make everyone at home happy – the result was baked stuffed shells. And during the process, I realized that it’s also a much neater way to eat one of my favorite childhood dishes. Unlike lasagna, the shells don’t stick to the pan and they portion themselves perfectly. Served over some peppery arugula for some healthy greens and this is the perfect meal.
Baked Stuffed Shells
For the Sauce:
- 28 oz canned tomato sauce
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp dried basil
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp red pepper flake
- large pinch salt
For the Shells and Filling:
- 25 jumbo shells, cooked to al dente
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, grated
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 tbsp basil
- 1 tbsp oregano
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 10 oz ricotta cheese (I used skim, but you can use whatever you’d like)
- 1 handful Italian parsley, chopped plus extra for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and get a big pot of salted water boiling for the pasta. Prepare the pasta to al dente according to the package directions. When it’s done, drain the pasta and rinse in cold water.
Combine all the ingredients for the tomato sauce in a large saucepan and bring up to a boil. Cover the sauce and reduce to a simmer, keeping the sauce over heat while you prepare the rest of the meal.
In a large skillet, heat some olive oil and saute the onion and pepper until they soften, 5-7 minutes. To the veggies, add the garlic and stir until it is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the ground beef and the dried seasonings and continue cooking until the beef is browned.
Transfer the meat mixture to a bowl and allow it to cool slightly for a few minutes. Stir in the ricotta and parsley until everything is well combined. Taste and add a little more salt and pepper as needed.
Pour a bit of sauce into the bottom of a lightly greased 9″x13″ glass baking dish, just enough to cover the bottom. Stuff each of the shells with some of the filling and place them filling side up in the dish. When all the shells are filled, pour the rest of the sauce evenly over the top and sprinkle with parsley.
Bake the shells uncovered for 20 minutes. Allow them to sit for 5-10 minutes and then serve. I served mine over arugula.