Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Recipes for the Nine Days: A Twist on the Classic Stuffed Shell

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Since tomorrow begins the three weeks that lead up to Tisha B'av (the ninth of the Jewish month of Av), the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, my thoughts have turned to dairy recipes. During the last nine days before Tisha B'av, it is traditional to eschew meat dishes.

For many people, this slight dietary change has little to no impact, as you are still permitted, and even encouraged actually, to eat meat on Shabbat. However, I may have mentioned that my husband is not at all interested in vegetables, so I have to disguise anything healthy very, very well. In this case, I hope you'll be pleased to know, I have succeeded. This recipe is literally stuffed with healthy ingredients, but it is so delectably sweet and savory that no one will notice.

(This recipe is large, and makes at least two trays of stuffed shells. Half your recipe to feed fewer that three people, or freeze one tray.)

2 boxes jumbo-sized pasta shells, prepared according to package directions, drained and cooled (I use Barilla)
1 large white onion, chopped
2 spears celery, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh garlic cloves, minced
1 large bag (3-4 cups) fresh baby spinach leaves
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 small can tomato sauce
1 large 32-oz. container part-skim ricotta cheese
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil
1 tbsp kosher salt (or to taste)
1 tbsp black pepper
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
scant 1/8 tsp pumpkin pie seasoning

In a deep saucepan, saute the white onion and celery with the garlic until nicely browned. Add the spinach and fold gently until it wilts. Add your tomato products and mix well. Now, incorporate your spices and herbs and cook on medium heat for a few minutes, just to marry the ingredients together. Now, take off the fire and mix in the ricotta cheese. Wait until it is cool enough to handle, and then fill your shells and place into an oven ready pan. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the shells and bake, tightly covered with foil, in a 350 degree oven for half an hour.

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