Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Turning Deals Into Meals - Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells

My adventures in freezer cooking continued with tonight's main dish, Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells.

This recipe was adapted from What's Cookin' Chicago? - omitting meat, making sauce from scratch, and like yesterday's meal, heating half today and sending the rest straight to the freezer.

The meal was a bit time intensive, though it could definitely be less so if you were to use jarred pasta sauce. I was able to use some of my stock piled canned tomatoes to whip up a marinara sauce, and I also used deal items for the shell filling - $0.97 eggs from Harris Teeter and $0.69 spinach from Aldi. As you plan your own meals, remember to keep sale ingredients and items you already have in the house in the front of your mind. Create meals around the deals!

As you read the recipes below be aware that I'm not a precise cook. When I create a sauce, I throw in ingredients and adjust to taste. I've given approximations, but I'd suggest tasting and adjusting to your taste.

Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells (half for today, half for freezer)

18-20 jumbo pasta shells

2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 bag fresh spinach (can substitute 1 cup thawed, frozen spinach)
1 palm dried basil
1 palm dried oregano
16 oz ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese
salt & pepper to taste


  • Cook pasta shells according to package directions. Be sure to follow directions given for baking after boiling. Barilla brand is ready in 9 minutes. Drain, set aside, and cool.
  • Heat large pot or skillet over medium heat. Add spinach and water to cover bottom. Cover and cook 3-5 minutes, until wilted. Drain. Squeeze spinach to remove excess water.
  • In a large saute pan, add the olive oil, minced garlic and diced onion. Saute until onions have softened. 
  • In a large bowl, combine filling ingredients, including drained spinach and sauteed onions. Set aside.
  • Prepare sauce as directed below (or open jar :) ).
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add a thin layer of sauce to an 8 x 8 baking pan.
  • Use a spoon or ice cream scoop to place filling into the jumbo pasta shells. Place half of the filled shells in the pan. Spoon ~1 cup of sauce over shells and sprinkle with shredded cheese. 

  • Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes.
For Freezer Portion: 
Fill remaining shells with cheese filling. Place on a cookie sheet or in a pan. Cover and put in freezer. Once frozen, remove and place in a labeled freezer bag. Add remaining sauce to a freezer safe container and freeze. When ready to use, defrost shells and sauce. Add to pan and bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes.

Ready to be covered and put in the freezer.


1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic minced or pressed
1 can diced tomatoes

1-2 T tomato paste 
1/2 - 1 14 oz can crushed tomatoes (depending on desired consistency)
dried basil (to taste)
dried oregano (to taste)
red pepper flakes (to taste)
"splash" of balsamic vinegar 
1/2-1 tsp sugar (to taste)


  • Heat olive oil in skillet over medium to medium high heat. Saute onions and garlic until translucent. 
  • Add remaining ingredients, stir, and reduce heat to low. Allow to cook at least 30 minutes. Taste and adjust spices.

Little Love liked dinner too. :)

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