The holidays are tough for me food-wise. There are a ton of opportunities to indulge (which I do, with pleasure!) but in-between all that indulgence I’m trying to make sure the hubs and I eat pretty healthy to balance it all out. Only problem is its cold outside and that always makes me want hot comfort foods. So, I try and lighten up some of my favorite comfort foods (some more successfully then others).
This is a lighter version of my stuffed shells – which are absolutely delicious. One thing I’ve found that really makes the ground turkey work in Italian dishes is working some “Italian Sausage” spices into the meat before cooking. It really makes it taste a lot more like true Italian sausage and adds a lot of flavor to the sauce. Plus it is SOOOOO much healthier then sausage (don’t get me wrong, I LOVE sausage, but it is far too high fat to be a regular part of our diet). Since I’m not one to skimp on cheese, I also try to use one of the 2% mozzarella cheeses to help trim a bit more fat.
All in all, it’s not the lightest option out there, but it is tasty, hardy comfort food and is much lighter than the original.
Spinach Stuffed Shells with a Turkey Tomato Sauce
2 tsp olive oil
2/3 sweet onion, minced
½ lb ground turkey
Hardy dash of Italian seasoning, garlic powder, paprika, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and fennel seed
1 jar tomato sauce
½ c water
¼ c balsamic vinegar
6-8 oz frozen spinach, thawed and moisture squeezed out
4 cloves garlic
15 oz part-skim ricotta
3 oz parmesan
2/3 box pasta shells
1 c shredded part skim mozzarella
2 oz parmesan
Pre-heat oven to 400ᵒ.
Cook pasta shells according to package. Drain and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes. In a small bowl, thoroughly mix the ground turkey and spices (you’re creating a turkey “Italian sausage”). Once well mixed add the turkey to the pan. Sauté until completely cooked through, using a fork to break up any clumps of turkey. Add the tomato sauce, use the ½ c of water to rinse out the tomato sauce jar and add to the pan as well. Add the vinegar and simmer while you work on the stuffed shells.
In your food processor puree the spinach, garlic and ricotta until smooth. Using a spatula, remove the mixture from the food processor and transfer into a bowl. Fold in the parmesan.
Place a hardy spoonful of the sauce in the bottom of your baking pan (I’d suggest a 13×9-ish casserole pan) to keep the shells from sticking. Spoon the spinach mixture into the shells and place in a single layer in the casserole pan – you may have more shells then you need, I did! Pour tomato sauce over the shells and top with mozzarella and parmesan.
Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until cheese is lightly browned.
Serves 5-6: 1 serving (estimated) –442 Calories, 22g Fat, 25g Carbs, 5g Fiber, 35g Protein