Dina. One of my dearest, oldest friends. (Not in age, just duration.) I could wax poetic about her loyalty and sincerity and how our friendship has evolved and deepened since middle school, but I won’t because Dina’s probably reading and thinking, “Oh no! It’s about me! Good thing no one I know reads this blog, too!” Just kidding, D.
Dina’s been a vegetarian for the past several years. I think it had something to do with a few weeks backpacking through Europe and a few too many pounds of sausage ending up in her belly. I know, D, too much information. Sorry.
Recently, Dina and her boyfriend came to dinner. I struggled with what to cook, I’ll be honest. We always have a side of vegetables, but they do not take center stage. I settled on classic stuffed shells, with a few extra handfuls of leftover garden vegetables (swiss chard and shredded zucchini). I think we did pretty well. If not, the fresh cannolis and four slices of pie Dina brought over sure ended the meal on a good note.
Four Cheese Stuffed Shells
12-ounce box of jumbo shells
15 ounces (1 1/2 cups) ricotta cheese or part skim ricotta cheese
1 pound mozzarella diced
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 cup shredded Asiago
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
5 ounces chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained or a mix of spinach and prepared, artichokes, chopped
3 cup tomato sauce of your choice
Optional: 1 pound cooked sausage, shredded roasted chicken, shrimp, crab, or other protein
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt water and add pasta. Cook shells 12 to 15 minutes, they should be softened but still undercooked at the center. Drain pasta and cool.
- Combine ricotta, 1/2 of the diced mozzarella, a couple of handfuls of Parmigiano and 1/2 the Asiago. Add parsley and spinach to the cheeses and stir to combine.
- Pour a little sauce into the bottom of a shallow medium sized casserole dish.
- Fill shells with rounded spoonfuls of mixture and arrange them in casserole dish. Top shells with remaining sauce and remaining mozzarella and Asiago cheeses.
- Heat for 20-30 minutes, until bubbling.