Caramelized Vegetable and Fontina Stuffed Shells with Fire Roasted Marinara.
I maaaade you dinner!
And it’s meatless! And filled with cheese. Plus a smoky sauce. And even VEGETABLES.
These stuffed shells may be a new go-to for me. And they are something that you can totally freeze if you’re into making a bunch of freezer meals!
If I’m being totally honest, I haven’t made any freezer meals yet for the baby’s arrival. I don’t think I’m going to, as I mentioned in my last update. But don’t worry! I went and grabbed about 20 frozen things from Trader Joe’s which totally makes up for that, right? I’m hoping so.
Ugh. We’re already in major second child mode. Bahahaha.
Stuffed shells are not a dish we have often in this house… in fact, we probably don’t even have them once a year. And even though I’m not the biggest pasta/tomato sauce lover, they are a dish that I always enjoy when I eat them. So, like, why not?
Around this time of year, I always break out some tomato-sauce based recipes for the comfort food level and even find myself occasionally craving them. I think that started when I was pregnant with Max. ESPECIALLY around the holiday season – it’s when I take the most interest in those dishes because they just taste… different. You know? Like everything is all beef and turkey and gravy and squash and I’m like hold up!
I need a break from all that and have to eat something that I normally don’t want just for a change of pace, because I’m a millennial and gets bored at the drop of a hat. Instantly bored. Always. With everything.
Oh my gosh.
Yes, they are filled with tons of veggies that start with caramelized onions which add such a depth of flavor and serious sweetness (in a good way!) to the filling. They are totally meat free which of course means that Eddie won’t consider them a legit meal, but he can make some chicken or whatever on the side OR eat these as a side dish throughout the week, which is exactly what he did.
The sauce, which is sort of like a quick, faux marinara (made by the person who has zero Italian blood in her body), starts with fire-roasted tomatoes which are my absolute FAVE. They are the base for this creamy tomato soup (that totally tastes like (or better than!) the Nordstrom cafe version) that I make constantly and love. If you tell me that a chili or tomato sauce is made with fire-roasted tomatoes? I’m so much more inclined to eat it. I love the smokiness they impart in a dish.
And of COURSE I used fontina cheese because if you’ve followed this blog for any length of time you know that it’s my cheese of choice for the melty factor. We loooooove fontina here. I use it in everything!
So. Yes. Very very very into these shells. How could I not be?
- 2 14-ounce cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 sweet onion sliced
- 1/2 cup butternut squash cubes 1/2-1 inch cubes
- 12 ounce mushrooms chopped
- 8 ounces fresh spinach chopped (I just run my knife through it once or twice)
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk-ricotta cheese
- 8 ounces fontina cheese freshly grated
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 12 ounces jumbo pasta shells cooked according to directions
- fresh basil and oregano to garnish
- Add the tomatoes, paste, garlic and butter together in a saucepan and heat over medium-low heat. Stir to combine, then cover and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the diced tomatoes have broken down. Stir in the basil.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a baking dish (I used a 9x9 but you can also do a 9x13, this should make enough shells and filling) with nonstick spray.
- Heat a large skillet over low heat and melt the butter. Once melted, stir in the onions, squash and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until the onions are caramely and golden, about 25 to 30 minutes. Add in the mushrooms and cook until they are soft and juice, about 6 minutes. Stir in the spinach and garlic, cooking until the spinach wilts.
- In a bowl, stir together the ricotta and almost all of the fontina, reserving some for the top. Stir in the beaten egg. Add in the salt and pepper. Fold in the cooked vegetables until combined.
- Spoon 1/2 cup of marinara in the bottom of the baking dish. Take the cooked pasta shells and fill them with the cheesy vegetable mixture and place them in the baking dish. Cover them with all of the marinara and the remaining fontina cheese. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden and bubbly.
- Top with fresh oregano and basil to serve.
Isn’t that the most perfect hug in a bowl?