Pasta and sauce is a family favorite in my household. Throw in some mozzarella or ricotta cheese, and you have a definite winner.
While the ingredients are similar, I often alternate between lasagna, manicotti and stuffed shells to keep the meals from getting boring.
On this particular Sunday in recent weeks, stuffed shells was the choice.
The meal is fairly quick and easy, and can be made in a low-calorie variety.
I start by browning about a pound of lean ground beef while I'm boiling the shells according to package directions. Although it's lean, the ground beef still will need to be drained once it's browned. On a third stove-top burner, I start heating the red pasta sauce. You can use your favorite jar sauce, mix up your favorite homemade recipe, or in my case, use a combination of the two.
After the beef is browned and has been drained, I add it to the sauce and continue simmering the sauce.
Stuffed shells in meat sauce
1 package of jumbo shells
8 ounces ricotta cheese
8 ounces cottage cheese
1 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp parsley flakes
1/2 cup of a favorite shredded cheese
Enough of a favorite red pasta sauce to cover the shells
1 lb. lean ground beef
Heat the red sauce. Brown the ground beef, then drain. Add the ground beef to the sauce and continue to heat sauce. Spray non-stick cooking spray in a 9-x-13 inch baking dish and add enough meat sauce to just cover the bottom of the dish.
Boil shells according to package directions, drain and cool.
Mix together the cheeses, egg, pepper and parsley flakes. Spoon about a tablespoon of cheese mixture into each shell one by one.
Lay the stuffed shells atop the sauce in the baking dish. Top with more meat sauce. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of your favorite shredded cheese.
Cover, bake for 40 minutes in a 350-degree oven.
Let stand for 20 minutes before serving with side of additional meat sauce for topping.
While those items are cooking, I prepare the stuffing mix.
For that, you will need several cheeses. You can use any of your favorites, and I find that a nice combination of two or three or four makes the meal even more delicious. I also make it a point to save calories by choosing fat-free cheeses in the dairy aisle at the grocery store.
I use about 8 to 10 ounces of fat-free cottage cheese, about an equal amount of fat-free ricotta cheese and about a cup of shredded fat-free mozzarella cheese.
Mix the cheeses together in a large bowl, adding in one raw egg, about a teaspoon of ground parsley and about a teaspoon of ground black pepper.
After the shells are cooked, drain and cool enough that you are able to handle them.
Spray a 9 x 13'' glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray, then spoon in enough meat sauce to cover the bottom of the dish.
Using a tablespoon, add about a spoonful of cheese mixture to each shell, one by one. As you stuff them, line them into the baking dish. One package of jumbo shells should fill the dish. This, of course, is the most time-consuming part of the preparation.
Finally, after all the shells are stuffed, cover with pasta sauce. Sprinkle with your favorite shredded cheese - mozzarella, parmesan, romano, or any other that you like.
Bake loosely covered with foil in a 350-degree oven for about 35-40 minutes.
Let stand for about 20 minutes and serve with the extra meat sauce in case your guests want to top it off with additional sauce.