Veggie Stuffed Shells

There’s nothing wrong with a traditional stuffed shell.  The simplicity of pasta, ricotta, and tomato sauce is comforting and easy.  Yet, every time I see or eat stuffed shells, I can’t help but think of the endless stuffing possibilities.  A blend of multiple cheeses? Sausage or bacon? Fresh herbs? Or what about a bunch of vegetables?  This recipe is my ideal stuffed shell scenario: filled with spinach, mushrooms, garlic, and herby goat cheese, and slathered in a thick savory tomato sauce. It’s satisfying, exciting, and is definitely more nutrient dense than old school stuffed shells. It also makes fantastic leftovers if you don’t devour it all in one meal. Pair with a glass or two of Castello di Meleto Borgaio Rosso.

Serves: 8

Ingredients

For the red sauce:

olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 anchovy fillets

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 28 oz can tomato puree

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

 

For the shells:

1 box dry shell pasta

olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minched

3 shallots, diced

2 8oz container mushrooms

1/2-1 cup dry white wine

2 bags frozen spinach, thawed and drained

1 6oz package herbed goat cheese

freshly grated parmesan

fresh basil

 

Directions

Boil pasta as directed on box and set aside. Preheat oven to 400°. In a medium pot, on medium high heat, warm oil. Add garlic, onion, anchovy, and red pepper flakes.  Cook until onion is tender. Add tomato purée, salt, and pepper to taste, stir, and let simmer. In a large skillet, warm olive oil. Add garlic and shallots and cook until tender. Add mushrooms and spinach and cook until liquid is gone. Salt to taste then deglaze the pan with white wine. Cook until wine has evaporated then remove from heat.

To assemble: Cover the bottom of a heavy casserole dish or braiser with a thin layer of tomato sauce.  Add about 1 teaspoon of goat cheese to each shell.  Then fill each one with vegetable mixture (you can also just mix the goat cheese and spinach mixture all together before stuffing the shells… it’s up to you!).  Lay shells into the dish, cover with remaining tomato sauce and a generous layer of Parmesan.  Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until the tips of the shells start to get brown and crispy. Remove from oven, cover with more parmesan cheese, garnish with fresh basil, and serve.

Lee Kalpakis is a recipe developer living in Brooklyn, New York. She grew up in her family’s restaurant in the Hudson Valley and has since worked as a cook, host, producer, and writer in the food media world. She loves natural wine, summer produce, and rock and roll music.