Baked Stuffed Shells Quattro Formaggi

Okay, the true name of this recipe in proper Italian, would be forno conchiglie ripiene quattro formaggi – (which simply means “baked stuffed shells with four cheeses,”) but I opted to take a bit of “poetic license” in naming this one – a bit of English and a bit of Italian as well.  So I came up with “Baked Stuffed Shells Quattro Formaggi,” which is essentially some pasta shells, stuffed with a great four-cheese filling, and then covered with a tasty red sauce, and finally baked to perfection in the oven. So, some English to properly identify the recipe, and then a splash of Italian to give it some of that wonderful Italian character.

This a great recipe that works well for a family dinner or a pot luck offering. A creamy blend of cottage cheese, ricotta, crumbled bleu cheese, Asiago cheese and eggs, complimented with parsley,  then stuffed into magnificent jumbo shells, covered with an olive oil, onion and garlic Italian-seasoned tomato sauce and then baked to perfection.   A lightly broiled and/or browned Parmesan coating completes this wonderful dish, truly an Italian comfort food that’s simple and easy to prepare, that will have your family or guests asking for seconds.  Quattro Formaggio, which simply means “four cheeses” in Italian, provides the epicurean core of this delectable dish.

INGREDIENTS

16 uncooked jumbo pasta shells

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1 ½ cups 1% low-fat cottage cheese
1 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
½ cup (2oz) crumbled bleu cheese
1/4 cup shredded Asiago cheese
2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley
1 lg egg, lightly beaten

For The Sauce:

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Cooking spray
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 – 14.5oz can no-salt added stewed tomatoes, undrained and chopped
1 TBSP dried Italian seasoning
¼ tsp salt

For The Topping:

2 TBSP (1/2oz) finely shredded fresh Parmesan cheese

Preparation:

Combine first 6 ingredients in a bowl; stir well and set aside.

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Coat a saucepan with cooking spray; add olive oil, and place over medium-high heat until hot. (You’ll be able to smell the olive oil fragrance) Add onion and garlic, and sauté until tender or onions are transparent.

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Stir in tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and salt; bring to a boil.

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Reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The sauce will reduce a bit and become more thickened.  Remove from heat and set aside.

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Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cook pasta shells according to package directions; place shells in a colander, rinse under cool water and allow to drain.

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When the shells have cooled sufficiently enough to be handled, spoon the reserved cheese mixture evenly into shells.

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Arrange shells in an 11 X 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

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Pour tomato sauce mixture over shells.

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Cover and bake at 375° for 25 minutes.

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Remove from oven, uncover; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

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Bake, uncovered, and additional 5 minutes. (Use the broiler if you prefer but watch it closely, you want the Parmesan only lightly browned.)

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Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Yield: about 8 servings.

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Buon appetito!

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