stuffed shells with roasted red pepper, eggplant & zucchini

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I have bad news and good news.

The bad news is: I don’t have any finished-product photos of this delectable stuffed shells recipe to share with you. Instead, these pre-oven shots will have to suffice (try using your imagination to slather the dish in bubbling-hot melted mozzarella — see how great that looks!?).

The good news is: my lack of finished-product photos just goes to show how gosh darn delicious this meal turned out to be. When I pulled the pan out of the oven — in all its cheesy, tomato-y, garlicky glory — in front of my three ravenous dinner guests, I couldn’t bring myself to ask them to wait. For some reason, saying,”Five more minutes! This pasta needs a photo shoot!” seemed like a cruel joke to play on so sweet a company.

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So I’m asking you to take a leap of faith and accept the absence of proper photo documentation as proof of the delectability of this meal. Remember that killer marinara? This dish puts it to good use as the saucy stage for tender roasted veggies and a creamy trio of cheese, all wrapped up like a troop of Christmas presents in jumbo shells. And I shouldn’t have to mention that these vegetarian stuffed shells will satisfy even your most carnivorous family and friends. So give ’em and go, and let me know what you think!

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stuffed shells with roasted red pepper, eggplant & zucchini
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

1 red pepper, diced
1 small eggplant, diced
1 zucchini, diced
a couple tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper
12-ounce box jumbo shells
15 ounces ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2-3 cups of marinara sauce

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Spread the diced pepper, eggplant and zucchini on a baking sheet and toss with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, or until veggies are tender. Set aside, and turn the oven down to 350 F.

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Cook the pasta al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain. Spread the shells out on a large cutting board so they don’t stick together as they cool. Note: I ended up stuffing about 26 shells, but I was happy to have cooked the whole box, since a few tore in the process.

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Thaw the spinach in the microwave and drain. It should shrink down to about 1/2 to 3/4 cup. In a large bowl, stir together the ricotta, egg, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, Parmesan, spinach, basil, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper.

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Stir in the roasted veggies.

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Now for the fun part. Spread 1 cup of the marinara sauce across the bottom of a glass 9×13 pan. Using a spoon, fill each shell with a generous scoop of the ricotta filling and place — split-side up — in rows in the dish. Spread the remaining marinara sauce across the top. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup of mozzarella.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted, bubbling and beginning to brown. Serve hot!

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