Italian Stuffed Shells

This recipe is a hit at our house.  My husband says it’s better than lasagna (one of our favorites)! These are great for dinner at home or would be a crowd pleaser at a pot luck.  Truly, Italian comfort food.  With simple ingredients, you can crank out an impressive dinner for your family. Serve alongside a green salad, and ta-da, dinner is complete!  The mix of cheese….  Come to Mama!   ~Kathy

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Ingredients:              

12 oz. Jumbo pasta shells (make plenty – some will break; you need about 34 for this recipe)

½ lb. 96% lean ground beef

1/3 c. chopped onion

1 c. shredded parmesan cheese (not the powdered type)

1 c. (1% fat) cottage cheese

1 (7.5 oz.) package cream cheese with chive and onion

2 c. low moisture part-skim mozzarella, shredded (reserve ¾ c.)

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 tsp. garlic powder)

¼ tsp Italian seasoning

1 tsp pepper

2 tsp dried parsley

1 (24 oz.) jar reduced fat spaghetti sauce

3 T. water

Optional garnishes:  fresh chopped basil or parsley

Instructions:

In large pot, bring salted water to a boil.   Cook pasta just until al dente (about 10 minutes).  Drain, rinse in cold water and turn open side down on paper towels to dry.

While the noodles are cooking, cook ground beef with onion.  Season with salt and pepper.   Drain grease and set aside.

Combine parmesan cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese and 1¼ c. mozzarella.   Stir in eggs, garlic, Italian seasoning, pepper and parsley.  Stir in ground beef mixture.  Combine well.

In a small bowl, mix together water and ¼ c. spaghetti sauce.   Spread into the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan.

Fill each shell with a heaping tablespoon of cheese mixture.  Set into pan open side up.  Continue filling shells until cheese mixture is gone.   Top with remaining sauce.

Cover loosely with foil and bake in a preheated 375˚ oven for 40 minutes.   Turn oven off, remove foil.  Top with remaining mozzarella cheese.  Leave in oven for an additional 5 minutes.   Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Top with fresh chopped parsley or basil if desired.

 

Weight Watchers Info.:  This makes approximately 34 stuffed shells.  A serving of 2 shells is 7 Freestyle points.  A serving of 3 shells is 11 Freestyle points.

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Creamy Garlic Pasta

Do you like those pasta dishes that come in a box?   This is quick-to-make and sooooo much better!    You will crave this.   You will love this.  You will want to add it to your regular dinner rotation!   It’s a winner in our house.  ~Kathy

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Ingredients:

2 tsp. olive oil

4 garlic cloves, pressed or finely minced

2 T. butter

¼ tsp. salt

½ tsp. pepper

¼ tsp. onion powder

3 ½ c. chicken stock

½ lb. linguini noodles

1 cup shredded parmesan cheese (not the powdered stuff)

¾ c. heavy cream

1 T. dried parsley

 

Instructions:

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat.   Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add butter and allow to melt.   Add salt, pepper, onion powder and chicken stock.   Increase heat and bring to a boil.  Add pasta and cook until tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally.   Reduce the heat to medium low, stir in the parmesan, heavy cream and parsley.  Stir until cheese is melted.  Remove from heat and serve immediately.

 

Pizza Pasta

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When my husband I first met, we spent every Tuesday night at the local pizza place with a group of friends.  I got to know him over slices of pizza and pints of beer.  I realized he’s funny, sweet, and maybe worth seeing as more than just a friend.  Pizza is good for getting to know people.

I love pizza in all forms.  This one-skillet Pizza Pasta is all the flavors of pizza in a scoopable form.  What’s not to love?  ͂ Erin

Ingredients:

½ a large red onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

2 c. jarred pizza sauce

8 oz. dry whole wheat rotini pasta

4 oz. mild turkey breakfast sausage

2 oz. pepperoni*, chopped in small pieces

1 tsp. garlic salt

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

2 c. water

Shredded parmesan cheese & crushed red pepper flakes, for serving

Instructions:

Cook and stir breakfast sausage, onion, and bell pepper in a large skillet until sausage is browned.  Drain sausage mixture on a paper towel-lined plate. Carefully wipe out any excess grease from the skillet. Add pizza sauce, water, rotini pasta, pepperoni, sausage mixture, garlic salt, and Italian seasoning to the skillet. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil until pasta is tender and sauce is reduced (about 12 minutes). Serve sprinkled with parmesan and red pepper flakes.

Weight Watchers info.:  This makes 6 servings.  A serving is 1 cup (about 7 ounces by weight).  *If you use regular pepperoni, each serving is 9 SmartPoints. If you use turkey pepperoni, each serving is 7 SmartPoints. (If serving with parmesan cheese, be sure to add those points.)

Summer Veggie Pasta

As summer vegetables come into season, this is a wonderful way to appreciate some of those fresh flavors.  Our family has been enjoying this recipe for many years.  Even the kids love it!  It makes a great side compliment to your favorite grilled chicken or fish, but we recommend it as a tasty main dish all on its own! ~ Tracy

1 medium zucchini, sliced into thin, bite sized pieces

4 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped

10 oz. grape tomatoes, halved or quartered to your liking

½ c. chopped onion

1 ½ T. extra virgin olive oil

1 t. dried basil*

½ t. dried oregano

salt / cracked pepper to taste

½ c. shredded Parmesan cheese

8 oz. uncooked spaghetti noodles

Cook spaghetti according to package instructions (remember to liberally salt the water).

While spaghetti is cooking, add olive oil to large sauté pan.  When oil is hot, sauté zucchini, garlic, and onion.   Continue to stir-fry the zucchini, garlic, and onions for three to four minutes – until onion begins to become translucent and zucchini softens.  Toss in tomatoes and seasonings.  Heat through.

Add cooked pasta and stir thoroughly into vegetable mixture.   Toss in shredded Parmesan.

*If using fresh basil you may want to reduce amount, since fresh basil is much stronger in flavor.

**Weight Watchers friends, this recipe is 7 SmartPoints for 1 ½ cups!  (Makes 5 servings)

 

 

Creamy Cajun Shrimp Pasta

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Erin’s husband loves shrimp and brings a bunch home every year on his annual fishing trip to Louisiana.   Erin rarely cooks it, however, because of the work to peel and devein it.  On his most recent trip, he got wise and bought shrimp that’s already been peeled, deveined, de-tailed, and individually frozen.  At last, all are happy… the cook & and shrimp-lovers alike.

This recipe was born on a Friday during Lent.  It’s funny how sometimes your Lenten fasting meals can end up more decadent than your normal, weekly suppers, simply because you have to get creative.  This is one of those meals.  While being actually pretty low fat, you’re still able to treat yourself to a rich bowl of creamy, spicy pasta.

Ingredients:

8 ounces whole wheat rotini pasta

1 orange and 1 red bell pepper sliced

1 red onion, sliced

24 ounces raw, peeled & deveined shrimp, tails removed

Cooking spray

1 T. olive oil

2 – 4 cloves garlic, minced

1 can petite diced tomatoes, undrained

1 can mild Ro-Tel (tomatoes with green chilies), drained

16 ounces fat free chicken broth

4 ounces reduced fat cream cheese

4 T. fat free half & half

Salt & pepper

1 T. Cajun seasoning (such as Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning)

Shredded parmesan cheese, optional (not included in Weight Watchers calculations)

Chopped green onions, optional

Instructions:

Sprinkle shrimp lightly with salt & pepper.

In a large, nonstick skillet, sauté shrimp in cooking spray for about 5 minutes, flipping halfway through, or until shrimp are pink and opaque; set aside.

Clean the skillet with a damp paper towel (careful!).

Heat olive oil over medium heat and add bell peppers and onions; cook until onions are translucent and peppers are tender, stirring often.

Add garlic and continue to cook until fragrant (just 30 seconds or so).

Add tomatoes, Ro-Tel, chicken broth, Cajun seasoning, and uncooked pasta to the skillet; bring to a boil and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring often, until pasta is al dente and most of the liquid is evaporated.

Stir in cream cheese until melted.

Add fat free half & half and stir to combine.

Stir in shrimp and heat through.

Top with shredded parmesan and green onions, if desired.

Serve hot.

 

Weight Watchers info.:  each serving is 8 ounces, by weight (about 1 heaping cup)

Old SmartPoints:  6 SmartPoints

Freestyle SmartPoints:  5 SmartPoints

Spicy Italian Chicken & Artichoke Pasta

All four of us love spicy food, and if you do too, you’ll know how annoying it is that most things marked “spicy” in restaurants are really fairly bland.  After many frustrating Italian restaurant visits (thank goodness for Tiramisu), Robin and Barry decided to come up with their own perfect pasta. Barry tinkered in the kitchen, ending up with a hybrid of some favorite Italian dishes.  This creamy, savory pasta is serious comfort food.  And the best part is, we can set some aside for the kids — or guests with low-spice-tolerant palates — and (cayenne!!!) pepper our portions to our hearts’ content.  

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Ingredients:

4-6 chicken tenders, depending on size, diced

1/4 cup canned sliced mushrooms, drained (we use Giorgio)

1/2 cup dry, julienned sun dried tomatoes (thoroughly rinsed if packed in oil)*

1 15-oz. can artichoke hearts, drained, then quartered  

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

2 cloves minced fresh garlic (could use jarred garlic, but we prefer fresh)

3 T. butter

For Sauce:

1 15-oz. jar roasted garlic Alfredo sauce (We use Classico)

1 ½  cups finely shredded parmesan cheese

⅓ cup milk

¼ to ¾ tsp. of cayenne pepper, aka “red pepper” (depending on heat preference)

8 oz. farfalle (bowtie pasta) — half the box of Barilla that we usually use

3-4 sliced green onions

Instructions: 

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*The Bella Sun Luci sun-dried tomatoes pictured here are strongly recommended…far superior to those packed in oil both in terms of mess and flavor as far as we’re concerned, but if you’ve found a favorite that’s in oil, that’ll do too!  We normally do fresh garlic, but this is the jarred brand we use if the pantry is lacking the fresh variety.  If you’ve never bought fresh garlic, it keeps much longer than you’d think.

Prepare farfalle per box instructions.

In a small pot, put all sauce ingredients on low heat, stir occasionally while preparing chicken portion (be sure not to let it stick).  

In a large skillet heat butter and garlic on low. Add chicken and Italian seasoning. Increase heat to medium. When chicken begins to brown, add mushrooms, artichokes, and sun-dried tomatoes, heat on medium high for two to three minutes. Add sauce. Simmer for 2-3 minutes stirring occasionally.

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At this point, it’s hard not to just eat this as is, but it’s worth the wait to put it all together.

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Serve over farfalle; top with green onions.  We like to add a little more ground cayenne pepper too, both for a touch of color and, of course, some spice.

 

Lasagna in the Highest

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When Robin’s husband Barry was very young, he thought that the line in church “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest” said “lasagna in the highest.”  Imagine how disappointed he must have been when he grew old enough to realize that his favorite food did not have an exalted place in church doctrine.  If there is a place for folks to eat lasagna in heaven though, this is the recipe that the angels must use.  It’s easy, cheesy, and yummy!

1 lb. ground beef, cooked and drained of fat

2 cloves garlic, minced or smashed through garlic press

1 16 oz. can petite diced tomatoes

2 cans tomato sauce

1 package McCormick thick and zesty spaghetti sauce mix

½ t. dried oregano

scant ½ t. dried basil

1 c. small curd cottage cheese

1 8 oz. package of lasagna noodles

1 t. salt

1 t. pepper

1 package (2 c. size) grated Colby and Monterey Jack cheese

1 package (2 c. size) grated Mozzarella cheese

 

Brown hamburger meat with salt and pepper.  Drain any excess fat.  Add minced garlic to cooked hamburger.  Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and spaghetti sauce mix (this ingredient is critical — don’t try to reinvent the wheel here!).  As sauce begins to simmer, add oregano and basil.  Simmer sauce for 20 minutes to allow flavors to blend well.  While sauce simmers, boil lasagna noodles in salty water.

Remove sauce from heat and add cottage cheese to sauce. Stir just enough to combine.  Drain lasagna noodles and start to layer lasagna. Begin with a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a sprayed 9 x 13 baking dish.  Continue to layer sauce, noodles, and cheese.  When placing the cheese spread a layer of both Colby / Monterey Jack and Mozzarella each time.  Our layering process is always sauce, noodles, cheese, repeat.  Just be sure that you always end with sauce and cheese on top.

Bake at 375 for 25 to 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.