I don’t make much pasta at home. Not because we don’t enjoy it — we do. Maybe we enjoy it too much. My husband, Scott has tried to impose a moratorium on pasta, because if I make it, he’ll eat it, and he spends way too much time in the gym to undo his good works for a bowl of carbs. Emily, my daughter, feels exactly the opposite. She gravitates towards carbs and if I make them, she’s front and center to partake. So, these shells were for mostly for Emily… but I added vegetables to the blend (for Scott and me). It’s healthy-ish. Mushroom Kale Stuffed Shells.
I wasn’t trying to be sneaky with the kale here — I don’t have picky eaters who would harrumph at something green or vegetal on their plates. What I did have was a bunch of kale in the crisper and thought it would go well with the standard ricotta filling in my stuffed shells.
Oh, and the mushrooms? Well, come on — they’re mushrooms. Who doesn’t like mushrooms? They add a meaty quality to everything and when you’re making a vegetarian dish for meat eaters — you look for those opportunities when you can.
The key to adding the vegetables to the ricotta filling is draining them VERY WELL. If they’re the slightest bit wet, they’re going to loosen the filling and impact the overall dish. I squeeze the liquid out of the kale, then dab it and the mushrooms with paper towels to soak up any excess moisture before adding them to the cheese mixture.
I used medium-sized shells for this dish and they were perfect. I slightly undercooked the pasta about 1 minute before al-dente, because they would continue to cook in the oven. Drain the shells and rinse them with cool water to stop the cooking, then start assembling.
Spread a bit of marinara in the bottom of your dish, stuff the shells with a generous scoop of filling and place it on the marinara sauce. Continue in this manner until the dish is full. This makes a lot of shells, and I had enough for two extra small casseroles, which freeze beautifully.
I add a little more marinara to the shells (you could cover them with sauce if you like) to keep them moist when baking.
Bake the shells until the filling is hot and bubbly and serve with extra marinara and parmesan. It’s heaven — even Scott agreed! I gave Emily a frozen tray of these shells to take back to college for a little taste of home and she shared them with her roommate, Samantha, who isn’t crazy for kale… After one bite, she was hooked!
- 1 box medium shell pasta
- 32 ounces part skim ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 large bunch kale tough stems removed, very finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 16 ounces mushrooms sliced
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 4-5 cups marinara sauce
Boil the pasta noodles according to package directions, but pull them off the heat about 1 minute before al-dente. Drain the noodles and rinse with very cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain the noodles and set aside.
In a large saute pan over medium high heat add the olive oil and sliced mushrooms. Saute until the mushrooms brown and give up most of their liquid. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl. Add the kale to the pan along with the water, bring the liquid to a boil and cover with a tight fitting lid. Steam the kale for 2-3 minutes until wilted, but still bright green. Transfer the kale to a fine mesh sieve and press on the kale with the back of a spoon to squeeze out all of the excess water and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, eggs, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and 1 cup parmesan cheese. With a paper towel, pat dry the mushrooms and make sure the kale is very dry as well. Add the mushrooms and kale to the ricotta mixture and stir completely to evenly distribute the vegetables throughout the ricotta.
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Spread half a cup of marinara sauce in the bottom of the baking dish(es). Fill the shells with a heaping tablespoon of the ricotta mixture and arrange in the baking dish. Fill in the gaps between the shells with a little extra marinara and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from the oven and serve with extra marinara and parmesan cheese.