Thursday, October 27, 2016

Stuffed Shells, Lightened Up

Stuffed shells, albeit a little more time consuming than say, lasagna...and much more time consuming than spaghetti with sauce from a jar (aka what I serve for dinner at least once a month), are a big hit when they make an appearance on our dinner table. This recipe gets my personal "Mom's Seal of Approval" award for several reasons. 1) I can make them ahead, and then pop them into the oven when I get home from work or school activities. 2) Everyone eats these without complaining. 3) They are delicious. They actually remind me of my favorite lasagna recipe. 4) They are fairly cost effective- not counting the salad and bread, the cost per serving was $2.09 for 6 servings. In reality, my 2 youngest did not eat a full serving portion, so there were enough leftovers for 2 addition meals. *Grocery prices based on my Ohio ALDI receipts. 5) They are low calorie- for stuffed shells, that is. With a few lighter ingredient substitutions, these come in at 430 calories per serving. Very reasonable for a flavor-packed, filling, cheesy dinner!

Here's how it all came together:

Count out 24 shells, or about half of the package. Or cook the whole package. You can always use the extra noodles to make a different recipe later in the week. Or boil them all and double the recipe so that you can deliver the other dish to a friend who could use a night off from making dinner. Or  freeze the extra pan for a future meal. Or hand out individual shells to trick or treaters. Or.... you get the idea. I cooked the whole box.

Brown up a pound of hamburger with an onion. Salt and pepper to taste. Drain the excess fat.

Then stir in a can of tomato paste.

And 2 cups of hot water.

Add in bouillon, oregano, and basil. Bring it up to a nice simmer and keep it there, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Whilst your sauce simmers and the shells boil, go ahead and mix up the ingredients for the filling.

Once the shells are ready to come out of the water, roll out some parchment paper. Then drain the noodles and place them open and face down on the parchment. Why face down? This is my little trick to keep them from rolling closed when I am trying to fill them. If they cool this way, they are easier to fill.
See?!? Now just take a small spoon and add a scoop or two of filling to each shell. If you're feeling ambitious you can pipe it in from a plastic baggie or pastry bag. However, I think this is just as quick and easy.

Place the filled shells in a "greased" (I used non-stick olive oil spray) 9X13 baking dish.

Now let's check back with that sauce that's been a-simmerin' away on the stovetop. This recipe made a surprisingly rich and tasty meat sauce. I was a little skeptical when reading the ingredients: Water, tomato paste, bouillon.... But seriously, this sauce was awesome! Now is the time to taste it and see if you need to add any additional seasonings. I finished mine off with a little garlic salt after taste-testing.

Spread the sauce over the stuffed shells and bake them covered for 30 minutes at 350 degrees until bubbling around the edges. If you make this ahead and refrigerate, you might need to bake longer, checking to make sure the center is nice and hot. Then uncover and sprinkle with cheese and bake some more until the cheese is melted.

It should look something like this when it emerges from your oven. YUM!

We plated ours up with a spinach salad and some garlic bread. And everyone was happy around our dinner table. #winning

Ahhhh. That first bite! Mmmmmm. CHEESY!

Italian Stuffed Shells from Taste of Home
adapted by Krista's Kitchen

TOTAL TIME: Prep: 50 min. Bake: 35 min. YIELD:6 servings


  • 1 pound ground beef lean ground beef (90/10) 
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 can (12 ounces) tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon beef bouillon granules or 2 cubes
  • 1-2 teaspoons garlic salt                           
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil 
  • pepper, to taste                          
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) 1% cottage cheese
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 24 jumbo shell noodles, cooked and drained


  • 1. In a large skillet, cook beef, onion and garlic over medium heat, crumbling beef, until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in water, tomato paste, bouillon and spices. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  • 2. Meanwhile, combine egg, cottage cheese and 1 cup mozzarella. Salt and pepper. Stuff shells with cheese mixture.
  • 3. Preheat oven to 350°. Arrange shells in a greased 13x9-in. or 3-qt. baking dish. Pour meat sauce over shells. Cover; bake 30 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese and parmesan. Bake until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes longer.
    Freeze option: After assembling, cover and freeze. To use, partially thaw in refrigerator overnight. Remove 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake as directed, adding remaining 1 cup mozzarella and parmesan after 30-40 minutes and increasing time as necessary for a thermometer inserted in center to read 165°. Yield: 6 servings.

Nutritional Facts

4 stuffed shells and sauce: approximately 430 calories


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