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If you are a Slimming World member, you will be very excited about the news that we are now allowed two Healthy Extra A choices everyday – fantastic news for those who had to ration the number of coffees they could have a day with milk in, in order to have a teeny tiny sprinkling of cheese on their dinner.

Fresh baby spinach

To celebrate, I created my Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Pasta which is Syn free when serving six by using one HEA worth of cheese *or* 1 Syn plus 1 HEA if serving 4. (I may or may not have synned an extra portion the first night I made this because I simply had to have some more!) 

You know I love spinach. I use it as a salad leaf all the time plus when chopped finely, it is such a nutritious addition to all sorts of meals from curry to cottage pie. Hungry Hubby is a bit sick of “all these vegetables” I am crushing over lately but it is so good for him, he’ll just to have a bag of chips at lunchtime when I’m not around! 

Fresh baby spinach

Ricotta is a soft Italian cheese which is a brilliant flavour conveyor plus, relatively low fat so you are allowed 90g of it for one HEA. To bump up the flavour of the filling, nutmeg helps the spinach sing and a modest amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese helps give that gloriously creamy ricotta some character. 

The tomato sauce that the stuffed giant pasta shells sits on is jam-packed with chunky vegetables and it reminds me of one of my favourite cheap but delicious meals – ratatouille. In fact, if you wanted to add some chopped aubergine (eggplant) then be my guest. To maintain marital harmony, I don’t add it – Hungry Hubby can’t stand it’s texture. Boo hoo! 

Plus the other brilliant thing about this recipe is that the sauce part is twice the amount you need. Which means, you can either freeze half to save time another day when you want to have Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Pasta in more of a hurry *or* do I as I do and simply stir some cooked pasta into it and portion it up for lunches the next couple of days.

Batch cooking is essential for saving my sanity and is most definitely the reason my waistline is continuing to shrink and this recipe is so worth a spot of effort in the way of prepping the sauce and filling. You could even freeze it at this stage below and cook from frozen for about 1 hour at 180˚C, adding the final sprinkling of cheese towards the end of the cooking time:

You didn’t think that I was through with the cheese portion of today’s post did you?! Yep, you heard right – what this meal needs is a hefty sprinkling of mozzarella before baking. I adore mozzarella and like ricotta, being one of the “soft, white cheeses” means it’s lower fat than the ever-present cheddar so us lot on SW can have a bigger helping and still lose weight!

I buy ready grated bags of mozzarella without shame and absolutely recommend you do the same. It’s so easy to measure out and will keep very well in the bag in which it is sold for several days. 

Once baked, the pasta is fully cooked, the cheese is blistered brown and if you’re anything like me, then your tumble will be a-rumbly. Grab a large spoon and get serving!

The tomato sauce and all that gloriously green spinach count as at least half a plate of speed but there is no harm in a little extra on the side. I love a little extra crunch with a side salad of raw spinach leaves, tomatoes and pickled beetroot. It’s my go to salad of the moment. What do you like in your salads? 

Giant Ricotta & Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells

 

Yield: 4-6 servings

Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Pasta

Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Pasta
This indulgent pasta dish is Syn free if serving 6 people, using up one of your HEA choices worth of cheese. If not, and you want it to serve 4, then it is one HEA plus 1 Syn per serving. Incredible, given how rich and satisfying it is!

Ingredients

For the filling:

  • 250g ricotta
  • 30g parmesan, grated
  • 200g fresh baby spinach, chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • A good grating of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • For the sauce:
  • 2 sticks celery, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 courgette, diced
  • 2 peppers, sliced
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 cans of tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

For the pasta:

  • 125-150g dried giant pasta shells (or cannelloni tubes)

To finish:

  • 50g* grated mozzarella (I buy bags of it ready grated)

Instructions

Make the sauce first:

  1. Heat a pan with some oil spray such as Fry Light then add the veg, one at a time cooking until slightly softened before adding the next. Let them brown a little if you have the patience!
  2. Add the garlic, tomato puree, canned tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire and basil and about 200ml water (swill the tin of the tomatoes out with it) and cook until slightly thickened and reduced, about 20 mins will do.

Cook the pasta:

  • Be sure to give it a few minutes short of the cooking time stated on the packet.
  • Drain it well and give it a good spritz with Fry Light (oil spray) to stop it all sticking together whilst you work with it.

Assemble the dish:

  1. Pour half your tomato sauce into an oven proof dish - the other half can be frozen for next time or used as a pasta sauce by itself.
  2. Mix all the stuffing ingredients together and to make it easier and faster, scrape it all into a large piping bag and squeeze a generous amount into each pasta shell.
  3. Sit the filled shells into it and sprinkle over the grated mozzarella and a little more nutmeg, salt and pepper if liked
  4. Bake at 180˚C for approx 45 minutes until golden brown and the pasta fully cooked. 

Notes

For Slimming World Readers:


  • If serving 6, this dish is Syn Free using one HEA.
  • If serving 4, this dish is one HEA plus 1 Syn per serving.
  • This blog and recipe is in no way affiliated with Slimming World. Always check ingredients yourself against official Slimming World guidelines to see if they have Syn values or not.
  • * = You can use 70g of reduced fat mozzarella if you prefer!

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