Adding more vegetables to our meals has been a goal. Pasta is a great base for doing this. Vegetables add healthy ingredients while stretching the amount of pasta included in each serving. Also, if you have vegetables leftover from dinner, they make an excellent addition to pasta and save you work.
In the stuffed shells recipe below, I added sautéed chard to the cheese filling, thus stretching the amount of cheese in each serving. Likewise, in the second recipe I added green beans to the pasta to make each serving healthier.
Swiss Chard Stuffed Shells
3-4 stuffed shells make 1 serving.
- 6 ounces jumbo pasta shells (21 shells)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 leek, white and light green portion, finely chopped
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more for salting the water
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 1 pound (2 bunches) Swiss chard, stems removed
- 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese (about 16 ounces)
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1 large egg
- 2 cups Marinara or Basic Tomato Sauce
Wash the chard well, drain and spin in a salad spinner to remove most of the water. Cut the chard leaves into thin strips.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the leek and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the leek is softened. Add the chard, oregano, ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Cook, tossing with tongs, until completely wilted. Cover the pan and simmer until the chard is very tender, about ten minutes. Turn the chard into a mixing bowl to cool to room temperature.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta shells, stir, and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Place a colander in the sink and drain the shells. Transfer the shells to a kitchen towels on the counter and set aside to cool.
Add the ricotta, mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the egg, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of black pepper to the chard.in the mixing bowl.
Heat the oven to 375°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
Evenly spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of an oiled 13-by-9-inch baking dish.
Fill the shells with about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture and place in a single layer, open side up, in the baking dish.
Pour the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the shells and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
Cover the dish with foil. Tip: I always spray the side of the foil that will touch the food with cooking spray to keep the food from sticking to the foil during baking.
Bake the shells until the sauce just starts to bubble around the edges, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the sauce is bubbling vigorously and the edges of the pan have started to brown, about 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes before serving.
Pasta with Green Beans and Ricotta
Casarecce is a short, wide pasta loosely rolled into a scroll shape. It is a traditional pasta from Sicily.
Serves 6 to 8
- 12 oz Casarecce or short pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 oz pancetta, chopped
- 1 large clove garlic, smashed and peeled
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1/2 lb parboiled green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths (2 cups)
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt, plus extra for boiling the pasta
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
- 1 cup ricotta cheese, warmed
- 1 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta.
Warm the ricotta cheese in the microwave.
In a large, heavy skillet, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook the pancetta until crispy.
Add the shallot, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper and saute for 1 minute. Add the green beans and pasta cooking liquid and continue cooking until hot, about 2 more minutes.
Add the cooked pasta and lemon zest toss to combine. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and add the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Mix well.
Drop tablespoons of ricotta cheese on top of the pasta. Serve immediately.