Friday, 13 July 2012

Pasta Fantastica

I was a vegetarian before entering university and I still really enjoyed everything about food. I love veggies and fruit, I loved grains and starches, and I loved life without meat. 

But the university I went to was small and you had to pick and choose the best meal available. Sometimes the best choice was a meat dish and while I tried my best to eat salads, veggie stir-frys, and a dish called "Pasta Fantastica" for a while, there came a day where I just couldn't do it anymore. I had to eat something else. I had to eat meat. 

Once I started eating meat again, I realized that flavours I was missing out on and meat stayed in my diet even after graduating from university. 

Today I am going back to my old eating habits of enjoying more meatless meals. And I have to say that if the "Pasta Fantastica" dishes at my university were more like today's recipe, I might have never changed my eating habits to begin with!

Ricotta and Spinach Shells

20 large pasta shells, cooked el dente in salted water and cooled
2 cups of ricotta cheese
1 egg
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups fresh baby spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups of purchased or homemade pasta sauce, tomato or pumpkin*** are great choices

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Saute garlic and olive oil in a large frying pan at medium heat for about 30 - 60 seconds. Then add in spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Let cool slightly.

3. Combine ricotta, egg, parsley, sundried tomatoes, and spinach in a large bowl. Stir to combine.

4. Coat the bottom of a 9 inch x 9 inch baking dish with half of the sauce. Set aside.

5. Divide ricotta mixture between the 20 pasta shells and arrange them in the baking dish. Dollop the remaining half of the sauce overtop of the shells.

6. Bake until the sauce and pasta filling warms, about 20-30 minutes. Enjoy!

*** When I made my pumpkin sauce for this recipe, I did not have any cream. I also wanted the sauce a little spicier so I changed things up.

Instead of adding cream, I added 1 teaspoon of chili flakes. Also I liked the idea of having a chunky sauce for the shells, so I decided not to puree it. These small changes made an entirely different sauce and it tasted great!

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