Hey. You there. Yeah, you. You look like you could use a vacation. I’m not sure what the weather is like where you live (I hope it’s nice!), but here in DC we are finally experiencing something bordering on spring, and it’s given me a severe case of I-want-to-go-on-vacation-itis.
So do you have any good trips planned? We’ve been floating a lot of ideas around, but nothing has been officially booked. My problem is that I want to go everywhere! Hawaii. The Grand Canyon. Charleston. Napa. One of those all-inclusive resorts in Mexico where they bring you margaritas on the beach. In fact, the only place I don’t want to go right now is on a cruise ship — what’s going on with those things lately, anyway?
My desire for a non-cruise vacation only increased last week, when I found this awesome photo essay full of tourists’ pictures from national parks and other landmarks throughout the 80s and 90s. In addition to showcasing some insanely short shorts, these pictures reminded me of how beautiful our country is. This girl is in desperate need of a roadtrip.
So, if you’re like me and you’ve got the travel bug but can’t just hop in the car and go, give these stuffed shells a try. They’re Mediterranean-inspired — full of feta cheese, spinach and artichokes, and seasoned with oregano and banana peppers. Not quite as good as a vacation, but maybe it’ll tide you over.
MEDITERRANEAN FETA STUFFED SHELLS (adapted from Cooking Light)
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup chopped pepperoncini (banana) peppers
1 28-oz can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes (do not drain)
1 8-oz can no-salt-added tomato sauce
1 cup shredded provolone or mozzarella cheese, divided
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup fat-free (neufchatel) cream cheese, softened
pepper to taste
1 9-oz package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped
1 10-oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
2 garlic cloves, minced
20 cooked jumbo shell pasta (about 8 oz uncooked pasta)
1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Combine oregano, banana peppers, crushed tomatoes, and tomato sauce in medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat; cook 12 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; set aside.
3. In medium bowl, combine 1/2 cup provolone/mozzarella, feta, cream cheese, pepper, artichokes, spinach, and garlic. Spoon or pipe about 1 and 1/2 tbsp cheese mixture into each pasta shell. Place stuffed shells in 9×13 baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spoon tomato mixture over shells, and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup provolone/mozzarella. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until thoroughly heated and cheese melts, removing foil for last five minutes of cooking.
Great flavor! The tomato sauce had a really interesting flavor from the banana peppers, but it wasn’t overpowering or even clearly banana pepper-y. I made this with provolone, but I think I’d like to try it with mozzarella next time. The feta was perfect.
One note – the original recipe calls for a full 9-oz package artichokes and only half of a 10-oz package spinach. I used the full amount of both packages, and I think next time I would switch it — using a full 10-oz package spinach and only half of a 9-oz package artichokes. But that all depends on how much you like spinach and how much you like artichokes.