Saturday, October 5, 2013

Stuffed Shells Florentine ~ Perfect for Meatless Monday

Here at the Martin-Su household we're trying to follow the 'meatless Monday' idea, although it's frequently on other days of the week.  At first I thought it would be difficult but it turns out it really is pretty easy and there are many great meals that do not include meat.  This is not however, a new idea.

Julian's Stuffed Shells Ready for Sauce and Baking
I had thought First Lady, Michelle Obama, had come up with it.  Turns out it dates way back to World World I when the U.S. Food Administration (USFA) urged families to reduce consumption of key staples to help the war effort.  Conserving food at home meant more food available to ship abroad, both for our troops and to war-ravaged Europeans.  To encourage voluntary rationing, the USFA created the slogan “Food Will Win the War” and coined the terms "Meatless Monday" and "Wheatless Wednesday” to remind Americans to reduce intake of those products.  To support the effort, the USFA even provided recipe booklets and menus in magazines.

The campaign returned with the onset of World War II, calling upon women on the home front to play a role in supporting the war effort. During this time, meat was being rationed, along with other commodities like sugar.  Meatless Monday was restarted again in 2003 as a public health awareness program by the Center for a Livable Future (a division of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) as well as over 20 public health schools.

So, if you're doing 'meatless Mondays' as well, consider these Stuffed Shells Florentine.  And don't tell me people in your family won't eat spinach.  In this recipe they will never even know it's there.  The cheese certainly carries the flavor and the spinach lightens up what would otherwise be a meal that is too rich and heavy.

Stuffed Shells Florentine  (serves 4, three shells per person)

Ingredients

12 uncooked jumbo pasta shells
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 cup shredded Asiago cheese
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
1 package (9 ounce) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
2 cups meatless red pasta sauce (about one jar if store bought)

Directions
Cook pasta according to package directions until just al dente (with a bit of a firm chew).  Make one or two extra shells for tasting and to deal with any breakage that occurs during boiling.  Thaw the spinach in advance or in the microwave when ready for use.  Squeeze out the water and place in a colander to continue draining.  Chop the chives and shred any cheese that you didn't purchase already prepared.

Ready for the Oven
In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, Asiago cheese, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, chives and the spinach.

Spread 1 cup red pasta sauce into a shallow baking dish (9" x 12" for the full recipe) coated with cooking spray or olive oil.  Drain pasta and let dry on paper towels.  Stuff cooked shells with cheese mixture using a spoon. Arrange in prepared dish. Top with remaining pasta sauce and mozzarella cheese.  (You can freeze portions that you will not need at this stage, for baking at a later time.)

Four Cheese Stuffed Shells ~ A Meatless Monday Treat!
Cover and bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until heated through.

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