There are days when it is almost dinner time and I am still peering into an open fridge wondering what to make.  Sometimes wishing the meal would magically appear.  It isn't even like I am low on groceries.  The situation is more about having a well-stocked fridge and pantry but a scarcity of ideas and motivation.  After opening and closing the fridge door a few times, it gets close to crunch time and that's when a meal like this comes along.

A lone zucchini and carrot, half a bag of fresh spinach, peas and corn from the freezer, some jumbo shells and tomato sauce from the pantry pretty much determined what the dish was going to end up like. I did not want it to be too rich and heavy, so really loaded up on the vegetables and added a very small amount of ricotta cheese to hold everything together.  Being the peak of summer, I didn't want to crank up the oven so decided to make these as individual portions in my toaster oven.

It ended up being more than just average.  Quite delicious actually!  And so of course I wanted to make sure I didn't forget how I made it.  At first I hesitated about putting it on the blog, thinking something this simple probably doesn't warrant a blog post.  But I am glad I changed my mind because it has made me realize that instead of letting weeks and months go by to make and photograph a special recipe, it is just as useful to document simple, everyday recipes.  And the plan is to do just that (fingers crossed)!

Depending on the filling, I usually keep a count of four or five stuffed shells per person.  Although it might look like a tiny portion on a plate, it is pretty filling.  The shredded zucchini gave it a lovely creamy texture despite having a very small amount of ricotta and parmesan cheese.  Of course, the nice part always is that you can play around with the vegetables and the combinations and come up with your own formula :)

Vegetable Stuffed Shells

Print Recipe

24 jumbo shells

1 medium zucchini, shredded
1 medium carrot, shredded
2 cups fresh spinach, finely chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/4 cup chopped bell peppers, any color or a mix
1 small shallot or onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp basil pesto
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp olive oil plus some for greasing the pan
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
salt and black pepper too taste.

Tomato Sauce:
3 cups crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup water
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1-2 tsp honey, sugar or maple syrup
some crushed red pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste

Boil the shells according to the package directions for stuffed pasta.  Drain amd cool in a single layer on a cookie sheet.

Heat oil in a skillet and add the crushed garlic and finely chopped onion/shallot.  Cook while stirring until the onion wilts.  Then add the chopped bell pepper and cook until it softens.  Add the carrot and stir for a minute.  Then add the shredded zucchini, corn and peas and cook until the zucchini softens.  

Add the spinach and stir until it wilts.  Then add the crushed red pepper, salt, black pepper, pesto, thyme and oregano.  Stir until it is completely mixed and turn off the stove.  When it has cooled to room temperature, add the ricotta cheese and mix well.  

For the sauce: 

Heat oil in a pan on medium heat and add the crushed garlic.  Cook for a minute and then add the crushed tomatoes and water.  Add the thyme, oregano, salt, crushed red pepper and honey and simmer on the lowest heat for about half an hour.  Check for salt and take it off the heat.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  

Stuff each shell with about a tbsp and half of the filling.  Do not overfill.

Lightly grease the bottom of a baking pan or dish you are going to bake in.  Pour some sauce to cover the bottom of the pan and arrange the stuffed shells.  Pour a little more sauce on the top, sprinkle the parmesan cheese and cover with some aluminum foil.  Bake for about 20 mins until the sauce is bubbly and the shells have expanded a bit and cooked completely.  

Serve with some salad and bread.



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