Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spinach and Goat Cheese Shells for #RecipeRedux

I have fond memories of birthday parties growing up. Not only mine, which were great but fairly standard, but some of my friends' too. Over the years I got to experience Laser Tag, modelling, pool parties and McDonald's tours, as well as the "joys" of Truth or Dare and frozen underwear during sleepovers. But one of my schoolfriends had the distinction of the best birthday food ever - ricotta and spinach stuffed pasta shells. Her mom was a great cook, and didn't hold with any "kid food" philosophy - while pizza and hot dogs weren't "forbidden", it was definitely homemade dinners in first place.

Spinach Stuffed ShellsFor my mom's birthday party this year (it's a "big" one but I won't say the number!) she asked for a recipe that I had originally made when testing out Fresh & Healthy DASH Diet Cooking: 101 Delicious Recipes for Lowering Blood Pressure, Losing Weight and Feeling Great - Spinach Stuffed Shells made without ricotta! Now I know what you're thinking - those shells look packed with cheesy filling. And you're partially right - there is cheese in there. But the bulk of the filling is mashed silken tofu, chopped spinach and fresh leek and herb tomato sauce, just accented with flavourful, easy to digest goat cheddar and goat mozzarella. I've always loved goat dairy in any form, since it is far more rich tasting, less salty and never gave me the "off" feeling that cow's cheese and cream did in large quantities (like alfredo sauce). With all the flavour of the goat cheeses, the spinach (I used my favourite Cookin' Greens) and the fresh herbs in the tomato sauce, you'd never know it was tofu that gave the filling that creamy, ricotta-like texture. They disappeared in a flash at the party, and nobody knew about the "secret" - just that it was delicious!
Spinach Stuffed Shells
This month's #RecipeRedux is Green with Herb Envy - fresh green herbs in nontraditional ways. While it's not exactly "nontraditional" to add herbs to pasta sauce, it is unusual to use them (and leeks and spinach, all springy green things!) to flavour a tofu filling for a usually dairy-packed dish.




Spinach and Goat Cheese Shells
Serves 8 as a main (about 4 shells each)
3 ½ cups low-sodium marinara sauce
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 lb (approx. 32) jumbo pasta shells
18 oz low fat silken tofu
¼ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp paprika
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced finely
2 large leeks, thinly sliced
1 tbsp fresh oregano, minced
½ tbsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp dried parsley
6 oz goat cheddar
7 oz goat mozzarella
10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and drained well

Preheat the oven to 350F and grease two 9 x13” oblong pans + a 9” square pan.
Pour a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan, set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the 2 tbsp of kosher salt.
Add the pasta and cook 8-9 minutes (it will not be completely done). Drain well.
In a large bowl, mash the tofu with the ¼ tsp kosher salt, black pepper, paprika, garlic, leeks, oregano, thyme, parsley, half of each cheese, spinach and 1 cup of the marinara sauce.
Spoon mixture into the shells, placing them in the prepared pan as you go.
Sprinkle with remaining cheese and pour remaining marinara overtop.
Bake for 40 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 481.9
Total Fat: 15.3 g
Cholesterol: 15.2 mg
Sodium: 1,142.0 mg
Total Carbs: 59.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.9 g
Protein: 26.3 g

*I have no affiliation with Cookin' Greens or Woolwich, I just wanted to provide the sources for what I used!