Stuffed pasta shells - vegetarian recipe
Vegetarian stuffed pasta shells with plum salad
To make this quick dinner I use jumbo pasta shells, mushrooms, cheese and tomatoes to make a tasty meat free meal. It's a regular on our dining table.
It's easy to make and uses one of my favorite convenience foods, canned tomatoes. Served with salad, it's a great for lunch or for dinner and if you're looking for a simple dish to make for vegetarian guests this is ideal as it can be made ahead.
Whenever I need inspiration ('Oh what shall I cook tonight?') he invariably says 'pasta' which is fine by me as it's easy and delicious. Pasta is traditionally served with tomatoes and cheese so is always going to please.
If you're cooking this dish for vegetarian guests, be sure to get appropriate cheese - just about every supermarket sells vegetarian cheeses these days. On your shopping list you'll also need jumbo shells, a can of tomatoes and some mushrooms - the other ingredients you probably have in stock.
I always like to add a salad with every meal to add to its nutrients so you'll need salad ingredients too - I used a couple of nice plums to accompany this dish, simply sliced on a bed of baby salad greens.
What you'll need
These quantities will serve two people but it's easy to double up. Or simply halve the amounts for a dish for one person.
- Jumbo pasta shells - six or seven per person. I used 14 because that number fits perfectly into my oven dish
- Mushrooms - I used six medium mushrooms which equates to three per person
- 4oz cheese of your choice. You'll use half in the stuffing and half on top of the dish. A little more or less is fine
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 1 slice good quality wholewheat bread
- 2 garlic cloves
- Black pepper
- A little olive oil
- Fresh herbs. I like to use basil and / or oregano. Both give a good authentic Italian flavor
COOK THE PASTA
Every manufacturer is different so check the pack for instructions. Normally the pasta shells are added to a large pan of boiling water, then the heat is reduced so the water is just bubbling. I usually cook the shells for slightly under the recommended time - if it says 15 minutes, I take a couple of minutes off that as the shells will continue to cook once they are in the sauce.
While the pasta is cooking clean and chop the mushrooms fairly finely. Heat a little olive oil in a skillet and add the mushrooms. Peel and chop the garlic and add to the pan along with freshly ground black pepper. The mushrooms and garlic only need to be gently cooked. Grate the bread into breadcrumbs or zap it in the blender. it doesn't need to be fine. Grate half the cheese.If you'll be using the regular oven, pre-heat to about 375°.
Complete the filling
MIX THE FILLING
Remove the pan from the heat and add the bread. Stir and add the cheese. The cheese will start to melt a little because of the heat in the pan. Stir well.
FORM INTO BALLSThere's no need to be accurate but you now want to form the stuffing into small balls, one for each jumbo shell. This is easily and quickly done, take a spoon full or the mixture and roll it onto a rough ball with your hands.
Stuff the pasta shells
The pasta shells will be ready by now so drain them well. They are easier to handle if you pat them quickly with paper towel. Just put a ball of the filling into each shell.
Assemble the dish
If you like, you can heat the canned tomatoes first to speed up cooking but it's not essential. Mix black pepper and fresh herbs with the tomato. (I add it to the opened can and stir with the handle of a wooden spoon). Add half the contents of the can to an oven dish and spread evenly.
ADD THE STUFFED SHELLS
Place the stuffed shells on top with the 'open' side facing downwards. Be sure that the 'open' side is actually closed by squeezing each shell gently in your hand.ADD THE REMAINING TOMATOESSimply pour the remaining tomato sauce over the shells and smooth it out with a wooden spoon. Note that if you're making this in advance, put it into the fridge now and resume as follows...
ADD CHEESE AND BAKE
Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly on top of the shells and tomato and bake until the cheese is melted and golden. You can use a halogen oven, a toaster oven or the regular oven. Depending on which you use, it will take between 10 and 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and serve with a simple salad.