Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Spinach Stuffed Shells w/ Creamy Marinara

I was doing a bunch of cooking yesterday (I'm trying to get meals frozen because I'm about to have my 3rd child, and I know I won't have too much time to cook after she's born!)...anyways...I was trying to think of meals that my husband would like, and since he loved the Creamy Alfredo sauce so much, I decided to make a big batch of it for him.  As I was going through my refrigerator, I noticed that we had some opened marinara sauce that needed to be used up, and that is exactly how this recipe was born!  Instantly I was taken back to my college days, going to Olive Garden, and dipping my bread sticks in boats that were composed of half alfredo and half marinara...yum!  Originally, I wanted to do a lasagna with this recipe, but I didn't have any lasagna noodles.  I did, however, have plenty of shells, plenty of spinach, and plenty of mushrooms!  This is such an easy meal, and it makes a lot, so if you're looking to do some cooking in order to have a lot of left overs, or if you're looking to do cooking for a group of people, this is your meal!  No one would ever guess that this was vegan...my husband actually asked what kind of cheese I used in it!  What more could you ask for than easy, amazing, hearty, comforting, and healthy...with plenty to go around?  (Honestly, if you're asking for more than that...I think you need to lower your expectations!!)  Oh, I guess I could throw in inexpensive too :)

-Bring a big pot of water to a boil, and add 1 full box of Tinkyada Brown Rice Shells (not the mini shells for shells and cheese...but the kind you stuff...just to clarify!)

-Boil for about 15 minutes (the noodles will not be done, but we're going to bake them later).

-Thaw 6 c. of frozen spinach (yup...6 c!)...usually I'll squeeze the extra water out of the spinach, but this time, I just threw it all into a large saute pan over medium heat, and cooked the water out.  Either way, you can do whatever you feel most comfortable with.

-To the saute pan and spinach (once most of the moisture has been cooked out), add:

2 6 oz packages of mushrooms (I accidentally got "the restaurant blend"...and they worked just fine...but whatever you want will work)
1 t. garlic powder
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 t. dried basil
1 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. sea salt

-Saute for about 5-7 minutes to incorporate flavors

-If you don't have any left over Creamy Alfredo Sauce, here's the recipe...it will make way more than what you need, so freeze the rest, or make up a White Lasagna, and freeze it!

Creamy Alfredo Sauce:

Over medium heat, slowly heat up:

4 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. garlic powder

-If you heat the garlic up too quickly, it will burn and turn bitter, so do it slowly, for like 5 minutes to incorporate flavors.


1 qt of MimicCreme (The only place I've seen this is at health food stores...it's a soy-free, dairy-free cream substitute made from almonds and cashews...it can be used as a cream substitute wherever cream is needed.)

-Slowly bring to a boil over medium heat.  While that's heating up, mix together:

6 t. corn starch
6 t. warm water

-When the cream mixture starts to bubble, slowly whisk in the corn starch mixture and lower heat once it starts to thicken.  (lower to low...just to clarify!)

-Squeeze the juice from 1 lemon into the cream mixture (if I had to guess, I'd say 2-3 tablespoons)...whisk in.


2 t. sea salt
plenty of fresh pepper
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. dried basil
1 t. nutritional yeast

-Note:  from the lemon juice to all of the spices, these can all be added to accommodate your taste...however, let it simmer for a while to let all of the flavors blend together.  I actually let my sauce heat on low for about 20 minutes before I tasted it.

-Another note:  if you feel like your sauce is too thick, add a splash of unsweetened almond milk, or even a little dry white wine.

-For this shells recipe, you will need 2 c. of the alfredo sauce and 1 c. of marinara.

-Preheat oven to 350

-Stuff your shells with about 1 T. of the spinach mixture...enough to fill them, but not super full...I was able to stuff 27 shells with the spinach mixture...which was all the shells in the box.

-Once shells have been stuffed and lined into a 9x13 (or if you're separating and freezing, a few smaller containers), pour Creamy Marinara over them, sprinkle with "parmesan cheese", and cover with aluminum foil.

"Parmesan Cheese" Recipe

1 1/2 c. panko bread crumbs (yes, you should use the panko, because their texture holds up the best)
3 T. nutritional yeast
1 T. garlic powder
1 t. sea salt
3 T. extra virgin olive oil

-Mix all together until the crumbs are evenly coated with the oil and seasonings.
-Bake for 25 minutes covered, then uncover and bake for another 5 minutes.  You'll want the sauce to be bubbly, and the noodles to be fully cooked.  (You may want to test them before you call them complete!)

-Like I said before...these are amazing! And they make a lot!  What I did to freeze them was:  stuffed the shells, put the sauce and "Parmesan Cheese" on the top, and then covered them in a double layer of aluminum foil.  (Make sure that they are completely cooled before you cover them or condensation will form and they'll get icy.)  

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