Baked stuffed pasta shells

Stuffed pasta shells the kids can help make

32 jumbo pasta shells (you may not need the whole box)
1½ lb (750 g) ground beef, pork, turkey, chicken or
veggie ground meat substitute
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz (227 g) pkg fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
1½ cups (375 mL) shredded mozzarella or Asiago cheese
1 cup (250 mL) fresh bread crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
¼ cup (50 mL) chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
¼ tsp (1 mL) black pepper
3 cups (750 mL) spaghetti sauce (homemade or not)

Bring a very large pot of salted water to a full rolling boil. Drop the pasta shells into the boiling water, a few at a time, stirring to keep them separated. Cook, stirring occasionally, until flexible and almost tender. Be careful not to overcook because if shells are too soft while you stuff them, they’ll tear (I’ve included 2 extra shells to make up for any that do). Drain thoroughly and rinse under cold running water. Set aside.

In a large (14 in/35 cm) skillet or Dutch oven, combine the ground meat and garlic. Cook over medium high, stirring to break up clumps, until meat is no longer pink. Drain off fat from the pan, then add the chopped raw spinach and continue to cook, stirring, until the spinach is thoroughly wilted. Remove from heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Let cool until just warm. (If using meat substitute, sauté the garlic briefly in a bit of olive oil, then stir in the soy crumbles and remove from heat.)

To the cooled meat mixture, add the shredded mozzarella or Asiago cheese, bread crumbs, eggs, ¼ cup of the Parmesan cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Into one 9 x 13 in (22 x 33 cm) baking dish or two 8 in/20 cm square ones, spoon a layer of spaghetti sauce (2 cups for large baking dish; 1 cup for each small one). Working with one pasta shell at a time, spoon in some meat filling and place on top of spaghetti sauce in baking dish. There should be enough filling to stuff 30 shells. Arrange shells in tight rows in baking dish. Dollop remaining spaghetti sauce overtop shells, and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese. Cover tightly with foil. At this point you can bake immediately, refrigerate for several hours until ready to bake, or freeze for another time.

Bake in oven, preheated to 375°F (190°C), for 30 to 35 minutes, or until bubbly.

Makes 8 servings.

Kids can
• Mix ingredients together for shell stuffing.
• Help spoon filling into cooked pasta shells.
• Arrange stuffed shells in baking dish and top with sauce and cheese.