DDD #84 – Vegan Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2018

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Click the image above to watch the video.

This is another very easy dish.

Vegan sausage is usually pretty nasty but I keep hoping I can find a way to doctor it up & make it edible and, finally, with this dish – I SUCCEEDED!  The secret was a pinch of fennel & a shit ton of crushed red pepper.  The filling in these shells was so delicious – I kept eating it directly out of the pan.  A few simple ingredients, a half hour in the oven – and you are neck deep in heaven.  Trust!

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Vegan Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells 

(This makes enough to fill three pie dishes)

INGREDIENTS

1 lb dry fill-able pasta shells (any variety works)

Olive oil

4 vegan sausages – chopped

1 lb fresh spinach (or kale or arugula or other greens of your choice)

4-10 garlic cloves (depending on the size & your passion for garlic) – coarsely chopped

2 (10 to 15 oz) cans chopped tomatoes (I used Rotel & fire roasted tomatoes)

1 lb vegan ricotta

8 oz or more vegan mozzarella

1/2 cup grated vegan Parmesan

1 tsp dry fennel

1 tsp dry oregano

1 TBS crushed red pepper (I used closer to 3 TBS but I love spice)

1-2 cups red pasta sauce (I used some spicy Rao’s & spicy Guy Fiery sauces but homemade would be even better)

S&P

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the pasta until al dente – or maybe a minute less than the package suggests.  Drain & run under cool water.

Heat 1-2 TBS of olive oil in a large saute pan.

Saute the sausage with spices (fennel, oregano & crushed red pepper) until it is begins to brown.

Add the garlic & spinach & tomatoes.  Cook until the spinach is just wilted.  Season with salt & pepper & blend them in.

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Put the mix in a food processor & puree it.  Add about 1/3 of your mozzarella & the ricotta.  The blending is not strictly necessary but it makes filling the pasta easier if the filling is mushy.

Put some of your pasta sauce on the bottom of a casserole or pie dish.  Fill the pasta shells & place them on top of the sauce.  Sprinkle with whatever amount of mozzarella appeals to you and additional sauce, if you like a wetter dish.  Maybe sprinkle some vegan Parmesan on there, too.  Put it in the oven & bake for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted & bubbly & the pasta is brown in spots.  If you want to freeze some – wrap the dish in foil & freeze – UNCOOKED.

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DDD #65 – Vegan “Tree of Life” Cabbage Cake or Stuffed Cabbage Tower

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2017

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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To watch the video, click the image above.

I had cabbage & I had a desire for some old school comfort food.  I was Googling around looking for inspiration & saw this thing of beauty by Proud Italian Cook:

unmolded-cabbage-1

sauced-cab-sliced

Both my friend, Rose, and I were blown away & both swore to make it immediately.  And we both did.  I think she stuck with the original recipe but I had to make it vegan & make it before work – including going to the store to buy a different kind of cabbage – Savoy cabbage – so I could get that pretty lace effect – so I had quite a task ahead.  My cabbage, ultimately, was not quite as vascular as the one Proud Italian Cook used & my oven heats unevenly – so I did not get quite the forest effect they did & I browned one side.  No matter!  This was easy to make & is really delicious & quite the show stopper!

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I would have just used two bags of the Beyond Meat rather than add tofu but I only had one bag.  I used frozen tofu that I thawed & then squeezed the water out.  It gives the tofu a spongy-texture that resembles ground beef more than raw tofu does.  It also has the added benefit of removing lots of the moisture.

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I also added maitake mushrooms (seen above) and 2 grilled zucchini – simply because I had them.  You could fill your cake with whatever traditional filling you would use for cabbage rolls or use this recipe or tweak this recipe.  I used Rao’s sauce for ease & because it is the best jarred sauce on the market.  You can use your own favorite – homemade or from a jar.  Whatever you decide – I promise you will be delighted with this unexpected & regal reinvention of the humble stuffed cabbage roll.

Vegan “Tree of Life” Cabbage Cake (Stuffed Cabbage Tower)

Serves 4-6 (depending on appetites)

INGREDIENTS

1 large head of Savoy (or other green) cabbage

2+ TBS olive oil

9 oz vegan beef crumbles (or 18 oz or more and skip the tofu below)

1 lb tofu – frozen, thawed, water squeezed out & crumbled

1 onion – diced

4 garlic cloves – minced

1 celery stalk – chopped

1/2 to 1 lb mushrooms – chopped (optional)

1/4 cup parsley – chopped

1-3 tsp fresh thyme (or oregano) – less if you use dried

1 1/2 cups cooked rice (I used brown basmati)

S&P to taste

24 oz of your favorite red sauce

1 cup or so of Grated vegan Parmesan – optional

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Core the bottom of the cabbage (leaving it in tact) & place in a deep pot cored-side down.  Add 2-3 inches of water & bring to a boil – covered – for 5 minutes.  Plunge into cold water & when it is cool enough to handle – carefully peel the leaves away & place on paper towels to dry.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan & then cook the onions, celery and mushrooms (if using) until soft (my photos do not reflect the proper order & it doesn’t really matter).  Add the beef, tofu, and garlic, thyme, parsley rice & 1 cup marinara.  Blend well.  Season with S&P.

Grease a deep, round casserole or souffle-type dish & then arrange the prettiest and largest leaf on the bottom. Place another leaf on top of that and up the sides of the dish all around.  Layer in some beef mixture (maybe 1/2 inch) & top with another layer of cabbage.  Repeat until you reach the top or run out of filling.  Finish with cabbage on top making sure to tuck it in the dish all around.  Drizzle the top with olive oil and a sprinkling of about half your cheese (if you are using vegan or real cheese) all over.  The cheese can be eliminated completely with little impact on this recipe.

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Bake for about 40 minutes.  Let it rest then invert a serving plate over the casserole dish, then carefully flip it over.  Top with more warmed marinara & some of your cheese.  Cut into slices and serve with additional warmed marinara and more grated cheese.

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Vegan Cabbage Rolls Stuffed with Grilled Eggplant, Mushrooms & Spinach

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Everybody has had stuffed cabbage but, typically, it is stuffed with a mix of meat & rice.  This recipe uses neither – though you could add some – if you wanted to.  This recipe is more rustic & lighter.   No carbs.  No animal products.  Just loads of veggies & sauce!   I had grilled eggplant in the fridge – leftover from a night of Grilled & Baked Eggplant Pizza Towers with Fresh Mozzarella & Basil Chiffonade – seen below.

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If you have a grill pan or a grill where you can easily grill the eggplant – I recommend it because it adds a smokey char to the dish that is lovely – though not necessary.  If grilling the eggplant first sounds like a pain in the ass – blow it off & just cut your eggplant into small cubes

Grilled Eggplant

INGREDIENTS

1 eggplant – sliced into rounds

Olive oil or some kind of oil & vinegar salad dressing

DIRECTIONS

Dredge the eggplant through the olive oil or dressing & grill (either on a grill or in a grill pan) –  just to get some grill marks on them & cook out some moisture.  I did it on the grill & it took about 5-7 minutes – flipping the slices occasionally.  You can do this on your burners on the stove or in a grill pan or on a real grill – with or without oiling the slices.

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UPDATE – after eating this for lunch – at dinner – I wanted something more substantial.  So – I added a bag of Beyond Meat crumbles & some grated cheese to the top before I reheated these guys.  AMAZING!

Vegan Cabbage Rolls Stuffed with Grilled Eggplant, Mushrooms & Spinach

Serves 4 very well

INGREDIENTS

1 head cabbage (I used Napa but any kind will work

Olive oil

1 eggplant – either grilled as outlined above or not – and, either way, cubed

1/2 lb mushrooms – sliced or chopped

2 tomatoes – diced

1 onion – diced

2 stalks green garlic or 1-4 garlic cloves – chopped

2+ cups fresh spinach

1 TBS dry parsley

1 TBS dry oregano

Crushed red pepper (to taste)

S&P

2-3 cups pasta sauce (homemade or jarred)

Fresh basil as garnish

OPTION – vegan or fresh mozzarella baked on top of these might be nice.  I opted not to use any – in an effort to keep these very healthy – but I bet it would compliment this dish nicely.  Additionally – adding some faux beef crumbles on top or underneath the rolls makes this dish more substantial.

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Boil a large pot of water – deep enough for the head of cabbage.  Remove the cabbage core & drop the head into boiling water – whole.  With tongs – pluck out each leaf as it becomes tender & plunge into a bowl of ice water.

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Heat 1-2 TBS olive oil in a large saute pan.   Add the onions, mushrooms, tomatoes & eggplant.  Saute until the vegetables get tender.  Add garlic & spinach & stir until the spinach wilts.  Add the oregano, parsley, S&P and crushed red pepper to taste.  Remove from heat.

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Spread about 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of a casserole pan.  Place a cabbage leaf on a kitchen towel & scoop a few TBS of filling into it & roll it up.  I did not really bother with the ends but if you are good at making closed ends – knock yourself out.  Place in the casserole pan – seam-side down.  Continue until all the filling is used up.  Season the rolls with S&P.

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Top with sauce – as much as suits your taste.  You might want t reserve some to add – warmed – to the finished rolls.  Bake for about 40 minutes.   Serve with additional warm sauce – if you like – and some fresh basil.

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Baked Stuffed Eight Ball Squash (or Zucchini) with Leftover Pasta (Vegetarian or Vegan)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Farm Fresh To You sent me three little 8-Ball squashes this week – and I had a boatload of leftover pasta and so – this dish was born.   I used the three eight ball squashes & a green & a yellow zucchini I had, too.  The kind of squash is not important but the eight ball squashes do make a cute presentation.   You can eat the flesh (and skin) of the eight ball squashes but I think this might be less pleasant if yours are very large.  Mine were pretty small & got very tender in the oven.

I did stuff the yellow zucchini but ran out of stuffing for the green one & could not be bothered to make more – so – I just filled it with sauce.  I used a teeny bit of real mozzarella on top & a really tiny bit of real Asiago in the filling but vegan cheeses would work just as well.

I used leftover pasta like this & the jarred sauce below.  You can use any type of pasta & sauce you prefer – even homemade ones.  You could add ground meat – like Beyond Meat Beefy Crumble to either the squash filling or your sauce – if you wanted to add protein to the dish.

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Baked Stuffed Eight Ball Squash (or Zucchini) with Leftover Pasta (Vegetarian or Vegan)

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

12 oz cooked pasta

4 eight ball squashes (or 4 zucchini)

2 TBS olive oil

16 oz pasta sauce (or less but up to 16 oz – depending on how much sauce you like on your pasta)

1-6 garlic cloves

1 TBS fresh oregano – chopped (or 1 tsp dry)

1/4 cup mozzarella (or vegan mozzarella)

1/8 cup grated Asiago (or vegan Parmesan)

S&P

Garnish – chopped basil or parsley and maybe extra cheese (or vegan cheese)

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cook the pasta & drain.

Cut the tops off the eight ball squash & carefully scoop out the flesh & set it aside.  A melon-baller or grapefruit spoon might make that easier.  If using zucchini – slice in half the long way & scoop out the seeds & flesh and set it aside.

Take about 1 cup of the cooked pasta & chop it a bit.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the squash flesh & saute a minute or so.  Add the garlic & oregano & stir.  Add the CHOPPED pasta, 1/2 cup or so of pasta sauce stir.  Add Asiago or vegan Parmesan & stir.  Season with S&P & set aside.

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Treat a cooking pan with cooking spray.  Carefully stuff your peppers in the pan.  Top each with a little more sauce, some grated mozzarella & then with the squash tops themselves.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until the squash are tender & the cheese is warmed (and/or melted).  If using zucchini – do the same thing – but there will be no little squash hats for the zucchini boats.

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This next part is up to you.  You can either boil water & put the remaining pasta in it for about a minute, just before you are ready to serve – or warm as much pasta sauce as you think you need for 2 servings & stir the pasta directly into it to reheat it.   The advantage to heating the pasta & sauce separately is that you can better control how much sauce each serving gets – because some people like lots of sauce & others prefer less.  This is your call.

Whatever you decide – when the squash is ready – plate some pasta & sauce on two plates & place two baked squash on top of each.

Garnish with basil and/or parsley & grated cheese.

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Vegan Cabbage Cake (Stuffed Cabbage Tower)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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vromans back

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I had cabbage & I had a desire for some old school comfort food.  I was Googling around looking for inspiration & saw this thing of beauty by Proud Italian Cook:

unmolded-cabbage-1

sauced-cab-sliced

Both my friend, Rose, and I were blown away & both swore to make it immediately.  And we both did.  I think she stuck with the original recipe but I had to make it vegan & make it before work – including going to the store to buy a different kind of cabbage – Savoy cabbage – so I could get that pretty lace effect – so I had quite a task ahead.  My cabbage, ultimately, was not quite as vascular as the one Proud Italian Cook used & my oven heats unevenly – so I did not get quite the forest effect they did & I browned one side.  No matter!  This was easy to make & is really delicious & quite the show stopper!

I used:

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I would have just used two bags of the Beyond Meat rather than add tofu but I only had one bag.  I used frozen tofu that I thawed & then squeezed the water out.  It gives the tofu a spongy-texture that resembles ground beef more than raw tofu does.  It also has the added benefit of removing lots of the moisture.

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I also added maitake mushrooms (seen above) and 2 grilled zucchini – simply because I had them.  You could fill your cake with whatever traditional filling you would use for cabbage rolls or use this recipe or tweak this recipe.  I used Rao’s sauce for ease & because it is the best jarred sauce on the market.  You can use your own favorite – homemade or from a jar.  Whatever you decide – I promise you will be delighted with this unexpected & regal reinvention of the humble stuffed cabbage roll.

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Vegan Cabbage Cake (Stuffed Cabbage Tower)

Serves 4-6 (depending on appetites)

INGREDIENTS

1 head of Savoy (or other green) cabbage

2+ TBS olive oil

9 oz vegan beef crumbles (or 18 oz or more and skip the tofu below)

1 lb tofu – frozen, thawed, water squeezed out & crumbled

1 onion – diced

4 garlic cloves – minced

1 celery stalk – chopped

2 zucchini – grilled & diced (optional – both the grilling of the zucchini & the zucchini themselves)

1/2 lb mushrooms – chopped (optional)

1/4 cup parsley – chopped

1-3 tsp fresh thyme (or oregano) – less if you use dried

1 1/2 cups cooked rice (I used brown) – or more if you eliminated the zucchini & mushrooms

S&P to taste

24 oz of your favorite red sauce

1 cup or so of Grated Parmesan (vegan – or not, if you are not vegan) – optional

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Core the bottom of the cabbage (leaving it in tact) & place in a deep pot cored-side down.  Add 2-3 inches of water & bring to a boil – covered – for 5 minutes.  Plunge into cold water & when it is cool enough to handle – carefully peel the leaves away & place on paper towels to dry.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan & then cook the onions, celery and mushrooms (if using) until soft (my photos do not reflect the proper order & it doesn’t really matter).  Add the beef, tofu, zucchini (if using) and garlic, thyme, parsley rice & 1 cup marinara.  Blend well.  Season with S&P.

Grease a deep, round casserole or souffle-type dish & then arrange the prettiest and largest leaf on the bottom. Place another leaf on top of that and up the sides of the dish all around.  Layer in some beef mixture (maybe 1/2 inch) & top with another layer of cabbage.  Repeat until you reach the top or run out of filling.  Finish with cabbage on top making sure to tuck it in the dish all around.  Drizzle the top with olive oil and a sprinkling of about half your cheese (if you are using vegan or real cheese) all over.  The cheese can be eliminated completely with little impact on this recipe.

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Bake for about 40 minutes.  Let it rest then invert a serving plate over the casserole dish, then carefully flip it over.  Top with more warmed marinara & some of your cheese.  Cut into slices and serve with additional warmed marinara and more grated cheese.

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Vegan Beef & Broccoli Stuffed Peppers

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2015

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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OK – so – I saw that vegan cheese above & decided to give it a shot.  I have yet to find a vegan cheese that tastes remotely like cheese and, I must confess, these individual slices do taste like a creamy cheese.  Best I have found – so far.  But – like every other vegan cheese I have experimented with – this shit DOES NOT melt.  I cooked four peppers – two with this cheese & two with real mozzarella.  I left them in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes.  I burned the mozzarella black but the fake cheese did not melt.  At all.

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See?  It is even burned at the edges but zero melting factor.  Tastes good but useless of you need a melted cheese.

Most stuffed peppers I have had are filled with some sort of meat & rice & they are often drowned in a red sauce.  I wanted these to be lighter so there is no carbohydrate in them & I served them clean – without a sauce – and they were very tasty.  I apologize – again – for less than stunning photos but the overcooking that resulted from my efforts to melt the unmeltable – but do not be thrown.  These are easy & yummy.

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Oh – and there is a little bell pepper tip for you!  And – I recommend Beyond Meat vegan products.  Best on the market!  Go to their site to find out where you can find it near you.

Vegan Beef & Broccoli Stuffed Peppers

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

4 bell peppers (male – if you can get them) – tops cut off & de-seeded

9 oz vegan beef crumbles

2 TBS olive oil

1/2 onion – diced

1 head broccoli – chopped fine

1 cup peas

1 cup corn

2 jalapenos – seeded & diced ( I left the seeds in for extra heat)

1/4 cup parsley – chopped

Cheese of your choice – vegan or otherwise (I use 1/2 vegan & half real mozzarella)

Garnish options – parsley, basil or micro arugula (I opted for micro arugula) or a warmed red sauce

DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan & saute the onion, broccoli, corn, peas, beef, jalapenos & parsley until the veggies are tender.

Put your peppers in a casserole or pie pan & stuff them with the mixture.

If you are using vegan cheese – you can top them with it before they go in the oven.  If using read cheese – put that on in the last 15 minutes of cooking – lest it burn.

Cook for 30-45 minutes – or until the peppers are cooked to your taste.

Serve with the garnish of your choice.

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Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells (Vegan – Vegetarian – Or Not)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2014

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

~

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This is another VERY easy dish.  I used vegan sausage but real sausage would work, too.  I added a half cup of ricotta because I had it around but a vegan alternative would work – or it could just simply be omitted.  I used a homemade sauce I had left over but your favorite sauce, homemade or not, will do.  Even a white sauce would work – if that is what floats your boat.  Whatever your dietary fancies might be – this dish will please you – I promise!

Vegan sausage is usually pretty nasty but I keep hoping I can find a way to doctor it up & make it edible and, finally, with this dish – I SUCCEEDED!  The secret was a pinch of fennel & a shit ton of crushed red pepper.  The filling in these shells was so delicious – I kept eating it directly out of the pan.  A few simple ingredients, a half hour in the oven – and you are neck deep in heaven.  Trust!

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Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells (Vegan – Vegetarian – Or Not)

Feeds two very well

INGREDIENTS

1/2 lb dry fill-able pasta shells (any variety works)

Olive oil

2 sausages (vegan or otherwise) – chopped

1/2 lb fresh spinach

4-10 garlic cloves (depending on the size & your passion for garlic) – coarsely chopped

10 oz can chopped tomatoes (I used Rotel)

1/2 cup ricotta (or vegan alternative) – optional

1/2 cup grated Parmesan (or vegan alternative)

1 pinch fennel

1 tsp dry oregano

1 TBS crushed red pepper (I used closer to 3 TBS but I love spice)

1-2 cups red pasta sauce (I used 1 cup but if you like wetter pastas – use more)

1 handful of grated mozzarella (or vegan alternative)

S&P

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the pasta until al dente – or maybe a minute less than the package suggests.  Drain & run under cool water.

If you are using real meat, you probably won’t need olive oil as the sausage will provide that fat.  If you are using vegan sausage – add 1-2 TBS of olive oil to a large saute pan.

Saute the sausage with spices (fennel, oregano & crushed red pepper) until it is cooked (cook thoroughly if using real meat – or heat it through, if using vegan meat).

Add the garlic & spinach & tomatoes.  Cook until the spinach is just wilted.

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Put the mix in a food processor & puree it.  Add the Parmesan & the ricotta (if using it).  The blending is not strictly necessary but it makes filling the pasta easier if the filling is mushy.  Season with salt & pepper & blend them in.

Put your pasta sauce on the bottom of a casserole or pie dish.  Fill the pasta shells & place them on top of the sauce.  Sprinkle with whatever amount of mozzarella appeals to you.  Put it in the oven & bake for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted & bubbly & the pasta is brown in spots.

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