Jumbo pasta shells are the perfect container for the glorious combination of vegetables that is ratatouille. Shells stuffed with deliciousness!
As part of our budget-keeping efforts, Doug and I pack lunches for work just about every day. In order to make that happen, when I cook a meal, I try to do so as though I’m serving 6-8 people instead of just the three of us.
Sometimes that plan works well and I’m able to put the leftovers in several single-serve containers that we can just grab out of the fridge as we head out the door. Other times, when the meal’s downright awesome, that strategy doesn’t work so well as there is just a memory of the food that was left in the serving dish.
Other times, as with this past weekend, I decide to make a dish that tugs at my heartstrings, like ratatouille does, since I grew up eating my mom’s amazing version. Knowing that my family turns their collective noses up at zucchini and eggplant, I do double duty and add another, family-friendly food to the mix. On Sunday, it was baked spaghetti.
So, imagine the chuckle I got on Monday at noon when my husband texted me, ‘Rut roh. I didn’t pick up baked spaghetti.’ Poor guy. In his hurry to join the masses commuting to work, he had just grabbed a container and ended up with a lunch bag full of ratatouille.
My friends, I need a sous chef if anyone’s interested in the job. The magazine claims that this recipe can be done in 40 minutes. Since it takes 22 minutes of sauté and baking time, that leaves 18 minutes for chopping the onion and tomato, mincing the garlic, dicing the eggplant, bell pepper and zucchini and stuffing the shells.
I’m a good cook, but I’m not that good. All that chopping, mincing and dicing took a good hunk of time and definitely needs to be done before the stove’s turned on under the pan.
That being said, once I had all the little piles of vegetables on my cutting board ready to go and my pasta was happily bubbling on the far burner, I followed the directions and cooked the mix in order; onions and garlic first, then eggplant and pepper, and finally the soft zucchini and tomato, along with the chickpeas.
I added my marinara, some torn basil and seasoning. Then I stuffed my shells. After finishing with the sixteen that the recipe says the dish makes, I had a bunch of ratatouille filling left and was glad that I had thought to boil up an extra half dozen shells. I stuffed them and put them in a smaller baking dish as well.
Following the instructions, I added to cheese to the main dish, but decided to keep the smaller one vegan and give it to a friend of mine to taste test for me. I baked both for 12 minutes, removed them from the oven and added the basil.
The only issue I have with this dish is one that is a result of it being a Cooking Light recipe. I wanted more … more marinara and more cheese, which would have done a great job of undermining the healthy, low fat aspect of the recipe. Other than that, I thought the shells were delicious. I’m not a huge fan of chickpeas unless they’re in hummus, but I understand that they were there to provide protein. I’d probably leave them out next time and just let the ratatouille sing by itself.
Doug, the poor guy that took the wrong container to work and thought he was in for a depressing lunch of food he didn’t like, really enjoyed the stuffed shells as well. He was as surprised by that as I was. My friend Leah brought back the empty container after lunch and also reported that she thought it was awesome.
The one big thing to remember is that this takes longer than 40 minutes for those who have to take their time chopping vegetables if they want to keep all their fingers intact.
What I’d Do Different Next Time
I’d double the ratatouille filling but leave out the garbanzo beans, but that’s just my taste talking. I’d also add more marinara to the ratatouille and more cheese on top.
Jumbo pasta shells: $2.79
Yellow onion: $.79
Red bell pepper: $2.99
Plum tomato: $.80
Fresh basil: $2.49
Pre-shredded Italian blend cheese: $3.69
Ratatouille-Stuffed Shells Recipe
- 16 uncooked jumbo pasta shells
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¾ cup chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1½ cups diced eggplant
- 1 cup diced red bell pepper
- ¾ cup diced zucchini
- ¾ cup chopped plum tomato
- ½ cup canned unsalted chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1¾ cups low-sodium marinara sauce (such as Dell'Amore), divided
- ½ cup plus 2 Tbsp. torn fresh basil, divided
- ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Cooking spray
- 4 ounces preshredded Italian 5-cheese blend (about 1 cup)
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add onion and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add eggplant and bell pepper; cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini, tomato, and chickpeas; cover and cook 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat; stir in 1 cup marinara, ½ cup basil, black pepper, and salt.
- Coat a 2-quart glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray. Spread remaining ¾ cup marinara over bottom of dish. Spoon about 2 tablespoons vegetable mixture into each pasta shell. Arrange filled shells in dish; sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 450°F for 12 minutes. Top with remaining 2 tablespoons basil.