this was my first time making shells and they have already surpassed lasagne in my book of delicious italian food. for lasagne to be good i feel like it takes loads of cheese and sauce and plates with different toppings to layer and, man, those noodles are so hard to get not to stick together and you end up with so many dishes. now don’t get me wrong.. i love lasagne. making shells was just such a wonderfully easy experience that i want to impart this to you.
while at the store getting ingredients for this i originally planned on defying my digestive system incapable of breaking down lactose and making this recipe with real ricotta but it is so expensive! i went ahead and used my mom’s ricotta substitute of tofu and i couldn’t tell the difference. without actually trying, i made this a pretty healthy meal complete with protein and not much fat at all. look at me!
“ricotta” and spinach stuffed shells
1 package large shells
1 jar or about two cups pasta sauce
5 ounce container fresh spinach
1/2 onion, julienned
1 container soft tofu
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup grated mozzarella
boil the shells according to package instructions and drain. i highly recommend dousing them in olive oil so they will be easy to work with later. don’t be shy. set aside.
while shells are boiling drain the tofu and place in large mixing bowl. add the egg, 1/4 cup mozzarella, salt, and pepper and mix until you have a ricotta-like mixture.
in a frying pan on medium heat add about 1/3 of the spinach. when it has wilted slightly add another 1/3, and the last 1/3 once there is room in the pan. stir and wilt the spinach until it begins to seep moisture, maybe 5 minutes. remove the spinach from the pan and set aside.
in the same pan, still hot from the spinach, add the onion and caramelize by sautéeing just under medium heat for about 10 or 15 minutes. when the onions are soft and caramel colored add them to the tofu mixture.
by this point your spinach should be cool enough to handle. squeeze out as much moisture you can and roughly chop the spinach. add to the tofu mixture and mix thoroughly.
in a 8 1/2 by 17 pan, coat the bottom with tomato sauce. one by one, fill the shells with a spoonful of the tofu mixture. repeat until the pan is full. (i ended up needing to steal some filling from my previous shells to finish the last of them. there isn’t a formula for this.) you will have some extra shells left over. it worked out for me that these were mainly the ones that tore and weren’t pretty. they’re in the fridge waiting to become mac and cheese or noodles and marinara.) cover the shells with the remaining sauce and top with the remaining mozzarella.
bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees.