Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Baked Shells Casserole

I decided to give one of Rachael Ray's Top 10 Recipes of the Year from 2010 a try this week. I love me some stuffed shells and had hoped this would be a quicker, easier way to get the same flavors. I made some adjustments, but in the end, I had the same amount of dirty dishes as if I had actually stuffed shells. Since I have a pretty rockin' stuffed shells recipe, I'm not sure this one will happen again (especially since while I enjoyed it and rated it a 4, Hubby on the other hand barely finished his portion and whined about my forcing him to each spinach as he wandered to the fridge to get some ice cream.) It's meat-free and has a little kick which I thought was pretty tasty.

Baked Shells Casserole
Adapted from Rachael Ray
Serves 4-6

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped, divided
1 onion, finely chopped, divided
Salt and pepper
3/4 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp thyme
2 tsp parsley
10 oz chicken stock
28 oz can Italian crushed tomatoes
7 oz medium shell pasta
1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
Nutmeg, to taste
1 cup cottage cheese*
4 oz Shredded Italian Cheese Blend
1 egg yolk
  1. In a large pan, saute most of the onion and 2 cloves of garlic in some olive oil.
  2. Add in oregano, red pepper flakes, thyme, and parsley.
  3. Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock and allow to reduce a bit before adding in the crushed tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Let this simmer while you cook the pasta, undercooking it by a minute or so (according to package instructions). Be sure to reserve some of the cooking liquid before draining your pasta.
  5. In a smaller skillet, saute another clove of garlic and the rest of the onion in some olive oil.
  6. Add in the spinach to heat through, season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  7. Once pasta is done, put it back in the hot pot, pour in the spinach mixture and add in cottage cheese and 2 oz of shredded cheese. Season with salt and pepper if needed then add in the egg yolk and combine.
  8. Put a layer of sauce down in a casserole dish then pour pasta mixture into the dish. Sprinkle with the other 2 oz of shredded cheese and cover with some more sauce (there will be extra sauce you can use when you serve the finished pasta.)
  9. Bake for 30 minutes at 375 and then serve with the extra sauce and more cheese, of course!

*You may remember that I generally hate ricotta cheese...cottage cheese is my go-to substitute and I've found it works out just fine in most recipes calling for ricotta. By all means use ricotta if you so desire (that was what the original recipe called for anyway.)

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