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Festive Stuffed Shells



I love to make Festive Stuffed Shells to serve at festive occasions. The potato pulp, baked and then puréed, stands in beautifully for cheese, while the spinach adds substance and visual interest. The lively color combination of this dish makes a lovely presentation.

Makes 4 to 6 servings



20 to 22 jumbo pasta shells
3 to 4 large russet potatoes, baked and cooled (see note)
1/4 cup unsweetened nondairy milk
1/2 cup diced yellow or sweet onion (about 1 small onion)
1 teaspoon fresh minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups lightly packed baby spinach, finely chopped
1 1/3 cups Dad’s Marinara (see recipe below) or your favorite prepared marinara sauce, plus more for serving
Fresh chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)



Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the shells. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shells are almost cooked, but still quite firm. Drain and let cool.


Meanwhile, slice each potato in half lengthwise. Carefully scoop out the pulp, using a teaspoon or grapefruit spoon. Measure out three cups of the potato pulp, making sure to pack it very tightly into the measuring cup. Put the three cups of the potato pulp in a blender. Add the nondairy milk, onion, garlic, and sea salt. Process until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl. Fold the chopped baby spinach in to the potato mixture.


Spread 1 cup of the marinara sauce into the bottom of a 9- x 12 -inch (or similar sized) casserole dish.

Spoon about one and a half tablespoons of the potato filling into each of the shells. Place each shell into the prepared casserole dish. Repeat until all shells are stuffed. Top each shell with one heaping teaspoon of the marinara sauce.


(Pictured above: Festive Stuffed Shells ready for the oven)

Cover and bake 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the sauce is bubbling. Uncover during the last 5 to 7 minutes of baking for shells to brown slightly. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. I like to serve three shells per person arranged on top of my Quick Baby Spinach Salad recipe. Serve extra sauce in a gravy boat or small bowl to pass at the table.


* Potatoes may be baked a day in advance of preparing the shells. After baking, wrap the potatoes tightly in foil and refrigerate until needed.

* No need to throw the potato skins away! The leftover skins may be stored in a tightly covered container for up to two days, before using them in recipes. To make Potato Skin Oven Fries, simply slice the left over potato skins into strips. Put them in a large bowl and toss them with some garlic powder, all-purpose seasoning, chili powder, and paprika. (You may add a drizzle of olive oil if you like.) Spread the potato strips in an even layer on a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake in a 400 degrees F oven for 20 to 35 minutes or until they are crisp and golden. Delish!



My dad made a fabulous marinara that was always a top request at any family gathering. The longer you cook it, the more complex the sauce becomes. Use it to top plain spaghetti or any other kind of pasta, or use it as a base for lasagna, stuffed shells, or casseroles.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes (I use crushed tomatoes, but Dad uses canned tomato sauce)
1 cup filtered or spring water, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced, or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (1/8 teaspoon for a less spicy sauce)
2 tablespoons good red wine (optional)
Salt(to taste)

Put the tomatoes, water, olive oil (optional), garlic, basil, oregano, parsley, and red pepper in a large sauce pan. If mixture seems too thick, add 1/4 cup water. Stir to combine. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Add the optional red wine and simmer for 15 to 30 minutes more, or up to 2 hours (the longer you cook it, the more developed the flavors will be). Add salt to taste, if desired. Serve over whole-grain pasta of your choice.