Happy New Year from all of us on the Spend Smart.Eat Smart. team!
To start off 2021 we have our first recipe of the month – Stuffed Pasta Shells. This is not a new recipe for us, it is an older recipe that we updated a little. This recipe can feel labor intense because you do have to fill each shell with the cheese and spinach filling. However, there are several reasons why I think this recipe is worth your time.
Stuffed Pasta Shells can be made ahead of time. If you have a free half hour, you can get the shells filled and in the pan with the sauce. Cover the pan and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before baking and serving.
This recipe makes more than one meal. My family of five gets two meals out of this recipe, especially if I serve it with salad, fruit, and garlic bread.
Leftovers freeze well for quick meals later on. You can eat part of this recipe while it is hot and fresh and then freeze the rest in single serving containers for quick and easy microwave meals.
This recipe feels special. I always feel fancy when I make this meal because it looks and tastes like something I would get in a restaurant.
I always look forward to fall, it is my favorite season. I enjoy watching the harvest come in and I like that the weather cools down. I also enjoy putting my soup recipes back into my menu rotation. Our recipe of the month for September is Vegetable Pasta Soup.
Here are the reasons I love to include soup in the menu rotation for the cooler months:
It is loaded with vegetables. Many people do not eat enough vegetables, and eating a bowl of soup is an easy way to get the vegetables we need.
It freezes well. I value recipes that freeze well because they make future meal prep so much easier. I freeze individual servings for lunches and I freeze larger batches for a quick evening or weekend meal.
It is versatile. I do not need to make this recipe the same way twice, so no one gets bored with the same old thing. The vegetables and seasonings can be changed and adjusted based on what I have on hand and what is on sale at the grocery store. And, if I want to add protein to this soup, I simply need to add in a can of beans or some leftover chopped meat. A note of caution if you do change things up with this recipe, watch it closely because you may need to add water.
Try our Vegetable Pasta Soup – it may just make its way in to your menu plans for the cool fall and cold winter ahead.
Vegetable Pasta Soup
Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups | Serves: 8
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 cups chopped or sliced vegetables (like onions, carrots, and zucchini)
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning or dried basil
2 cups small whole wheat pasta (shell or macaroni)
6 cups fresh spinach leaves (about 1/2 pound), thoroughly washed (or kale, collard greens, or 10 ounces of frozen spinach)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add onions and carrots. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened. This should take about 3 minutes.
Stir in zucchini and canned tomatoes. Cook 3 to 4 minutes.
Stir in the broth, water, salt, and Italian seasoning or dried basil. Bring to a boil.
Stir in the pasta and spinach. Return to a boil.
Cook until the pasta is tender, using the time on the package for a guide.
Notes: Prewashed or ready to eat spinach does not have to be washed. Use plain diced tomatoes for less spiciness.
Soup freezes well.
Use washed and diced garden tomatoes and homemade broth if they are available. Keep cut tomatoes cold until you need them.
Wash fresh vegetables under running water before preparing.
Tomatoes are by far the most popular vegetable grown in our gardens, and for good reason. They are tasty, nutritious, versatile, relatively easy to grow, and return high value for the space they occupy.
I love tomatoes, especially those sweet cherry and grape ones that give you a burst of flavor when you bite into them. Our featured recipe this month packs a lot of flavor into a fresh tasting, light pasta dish.
When I make this dish I substitute basil for some of the spinach and when I have garden tomatoes, sometimes I use large tomatoes. When I use large tomatoes I take the seeds out and cut the tomatoes into large chunks before I roast them. I think you could grill the tomatoes instead of roasting them, but I haven’t tried this yet. I usually serve a green salad, fruit and milk with this dish. Enjoy!
Roasted Tomato and Spinach Pasta
Serving Size: 1¼ cups | Servings: 4
2 cups (about 10 ounces) cherry tomatoes
¼ cup oil (divided)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
3 cups fresh spinach or a 10 ounce bag frozen spinach, thawed
8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
5 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Heat oven to 400°F.
Rinse the tomatoes under running water. Cut in half. Spread on greased baking pan.
Sprinkle olive oil (2 tablespoons), salt, pepper, and garlic powder on tomatoes. Stir to coat.
Bake for 15-20 minutes. Prepare spinach and spaghetti as tomatoes bake.
Rinse fresh spinach in water, slice in strips OR thaw, drain, and pat dry the frozen spinach. Set aside.
Follow package directions to cook spaghetti. Drain.
Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil, Italian seasoning, spinach, and baked tomatoes to the spaghetti. Stir until heated through. Serve with Parmesan cheese.