Sad to See it Go

March 18, 2008

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After all my whining about spring-this and summer-that last week, I suppose it’s only predictable that I’m now feeling quite sad that winter is slipping away. Cozy sweaters, roaring fires, steamy bowls of oatmeal, freshly fallen snow. I love all these things and will be sad to see them go. And I haven’t even started in on the cold-weathered food I will miss.

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There are still quite a few winter recipes on my to do list. Even though I’m itching to use fresh produce and lighter, brighter flavors, I’m not so sure I’m ready to give up roasting, stewing, smothering or braising. So, I’ve decided to embrace the last stubborn days of winter. I will eat root vegetables, I will make as many pots of soup as possible and, by god, I will stuff things with cheese.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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Like these shells. Oh boy, are they stuffed with cheese. Cheeses, I should say. And spinach. And when the shells were packed to the gills with their velvety blend of cheeses, I draped them with a smoky, pureed tomato sauce. Finally, I let loose a shower of yet more cheese on top.

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The result was a bubbling oozy-ness that, my friends, I might not see again until next winter. So I savored every delectable bite. Is anyone out there with me? Or am I alone in my seasonal schizophrenia? Do tell: what wintery dishes will you miss cooking & eating?

Stuffed Shells with Smoky Marinara
Adapted from Cooking Light

1/2 pound jumbo shell pasta (20 shells)
1 large bag fresh spinach
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Cooking spray
1 cup 1% low-fat cottage cheese
1 cup carton ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded Asiago cheese
1/3 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups smoky marinara (recipe follows)
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and set aside. Cook the spinach in two teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat, until the spinach is wilted. Let the spinach cool and then wrap the spinach in cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel; squeeze to drain. Set the spinach aside.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Coat a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

Place cottage cheese and ricotta cheese in a food processor; process until smooth. Combine cottage cheese mixture, Asiago, and next 6 ingredients (Asiago through spinach).

Spoon or pipe 1 tablespoon cheese mixture into each shell. Arrange the stuffed shells, seam sides up, in the prepared dish. Pour the marinara over stuffed shells. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mozzarella.

Bake at 375° for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and turn on the broiler. Place the pan under the broiler for 5 minutes, or until the tops of the shells are nicely browned.

Smoky Marinara
Cooking Light

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoons chopped fresh or 2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 (28-ounce) can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, basil, parsley, and oregano; sauté 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in vinegar and remaining ingredients. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Puree the sauce in a food processor or blender or using an immersion blender.

11 Responses to “Sad to See it Go”


  1. Lovely shells. I made something like this many moons ago. What a great idea to do again. Thanks for the reminder! Lovely photos as always!

  2. RecipeGirl Says:

    One of my favorites. I like the smoky marinara idea. That makes it a bit unique.

  3. Allison Says:

    Sunday Funday was… Fun. But, to think I passed up the shells above for a miller light? I may need to do some re-prioritizing! They look right up my alley… – Ali.

  4. Amanda Says:

    I might be a weirdo but I eat wintery favorites all year long. That doesn’t mean I whip up a steaming hot pot roast in the dead days of summer, but for the most part I keep my winter favorites and rotate them throughout the seasons. But right now, the call of fresh produce is screaming at me. I can’t wait for bountiful fresh fruit and veggies!

  5. Sarah C. Says:

    “by god, I will stuff things with cheese.” Thats just perfectly stated! These look wonderful and I will be adding them to my “its not summer yet” list of things to bake. Thanks for posting!!

  6. Kevin Says:

    Those stuffed shells look nice and tasty!

  7. a. grace Says:

    am i sorry to see winter go? i wouldn’t go that far…

    like amanda, i find myself making a pot of chili even in the middle of summer. hey, when you want it, you want it.🙂

  8. ourkitchensink Says:

    Gretchen: Thanks!

    RecipeGirl: It was actually my first time making this, but I think it’ll become a favorite!

    Ali: Sister, sister, when will you learn?

    Amanda: Hmm, so you’re saying I don’t have to wait until fall rolls around again for this kind of stuff? I think I could latch on to that idea.

    Sarah C: Thanks!

    A. Grace: Yes, I’m apparently the *only* one lamenting the end of winter. And, frankly, I can be easily talked out of it.

  9. Jerry Says:

    Loved the recipe, but I bet yours is better!

  10. yoyonomo Says:

    This recipe rocks! All of my 3 kids loved it and I used high quality jar sauce to make it easier.
    Thanks for this recipe!


  11. yoyonomo: Wonderful! Thanks for reporting back!


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