There are two meals in our household that get the highest of reviews (reviews are judged by the number of times that P signs “more” and how many times my husband gets up for seconds) – lasagna and stuffed shells. Honestly, I’m not even sure why I’ve never thought of putting the two together. Until this weekend, that is.
In our household cooking on weekends is what allows us to keep up on week days. With two full-time working parents (and one that travels a bunch), a toddler, a dog that enjoys a good roll in a pile of poo (second time this week!), a blog, a health conscious mom, and our need for social interactions, it’s pretty difficult to keep up with everything that we want to do throughout the week. So if I also want to make home cooked meals for the fam, I have to get a little creative.
Let me tell you a few of my tricks: meal plan and shop early in the weekend (we usually do this on Saturday), plan 5 meals and buy the family “staples,” prep as much as you can on weekends, and use your freezer.
Because I know that there is always at least one night when we’re going to order take out because we’re too tired/hungry/late/etc, I usually discount one of the weekly meals. It’s also rather common for us to have leftovers or “easy meals” at least once a week. Hence, 5 meals a week will usually suit us well.
Shopping for them on Saturday means that I have Sunday during P’s nap to prep as many meals as I can – sometimes that means making double the quantity and freezing half; sometimes it’s prepping a portion of the meal like cooking the chicken and then making a side during the week; sometimes it’s making a couple of meals for Sunday-Tuesday. Usually it’s a combination of all of the above. This dish is one that actually covers 3 meals for us!
Not only did I make double the batch, freezing half of the shells to use another day when we’re running behind or don’t have time to plan something, but I usually double the meat sauce and put it back in the jar. That means that later this week when we’re not sure what to have, we’ll just make some pasta or rice and layer it on top.
But let’s bring it back to the shells for a moment – these turned out amazing! They were relatively simple to prepare and cooked in the oven while we played. When they were finally ready, an hour before dinner time, I noticed a little toddler circling my legs, pulling at my pants, signing “hungry.” Since we’ve been battling the food for about 2 weeks in our household, I was ready to obliged. I grabbed a shell, sat down on the floor and let P have a bite. She gobbled it up! We ended up sharing 3 shells and she ate another (huge) full shell at dinner! To me, that’s about as big a win as I could ask for. The fact that the hubs got up for seconds and thirds was like a super bonus.
The recipe below is for the double batch that you can either eat or freeze for later. If you want the extra meat sauce, double your meat and tomato sauce.
Lasagna Stuffed Shells
- 30-40 shells boiled according to instructions
- 1 cup ricotta cheese or 12 oz
- 3 cups mozzarella cheese divided
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese
- 2 eggs
- 1 package frozen spinach defrosted and drained
- 2 jars red tomato sauce or about 4 cups
- 2 lbs ground turkey meat optional
- Cook the shells according to instructions (I add some oil to make sure they don’t stick together).
- While the shells are boiling, brown the ground turkey on the stove top, about 10 minutes, until the juices run clear and the meat is properly cooked. Drain the excess fat and lower the heat and add about 2 cups red tomato sauce. Let this simmer for 5-10 minutes.
- In a separate bowl beat 2 eggs lightly then mix in ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella, Parmesan, and spinach.
- When the shells are cooked, drain and allow to cool.
- In 2 large casserole dishes (I freeze 20 shells, and bake 20 shells) spread about ½ cup of tomato sauce, coating the bottom of each dish.
- Stuff approximately 1 tablespoon or ricotta mixture in each shell, topping with meat sauce. Set on casserole dish and repeat for remainder shells.
- Coat the shells with a thin layer of the tomato sauce and top with another cup of mozzarella cheese.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, covered. then about 5 more minutes, uncovered, until the top layer is slightly brown. Allow to cool.