Last night, as I stood at the counter chopping veggies for stuffed shells, I lamented how dull my knives are. I have a couple decent knives, but I'm not easy on them. I do make the occasional effort to sharpen them. But I use them naughtily, cutting apples on paper plates, using those plastic cutting boards that can go in the dishwasher. Even the knives go in the dishwasher. As I struggled with cutting a carrot into decent matchsticks, I knew I had no right to complain. It’s my own fault my knives are so dull.
It reminded me of a conversation I had with an artist friend awhile back. One morning, as our children played together, we got talking about how upsetting it is when we don’t have time to follow our respective muses. I told her that, not only does not writing give me an unsettled, cranky feeling, but I know my skills grow dull if I don’t write daily.
She surprised me by being surprised.
Maybe painting is different that way. You can clean the house and garden for a few months, then come back and pick up where you left off. But I can testify that writing requires regular practice. Otherwise my writing muscles grow lax and stiff, which is destined to show up in my writing. So I write. Every day. Even if it’s only a few lines.
Lately, things have been going well. I have several stories nearly ready to send out into the cosmos. Folly still molders, but I’m working on it. Chapter Three needs a complete revamp. I’m reshaping it on the back burner. I’m pleased with my progress. The ideas come fast and hard. I just need more time to execute.
Now back to the stuffed shells. They came out terrific, in spite of lousy knife edges. That’s encouraging, because it means we can get satisfying results, even when things aren’t perfectly sharp. But I have to admit, I noticed the clunky carrot strips. Time to sharpen the knives and make them even better.
Veggie Stuffed Shells
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup shredded or diced carrots
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 cup chopped broccoli
6 ozs. spinach
2 lg cloves garlic, minced
2 - 3 Tbsp minced fresh basil
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
1 cup cottage or ricotta cheese (Drain in colander if using cottage)
1 - 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
24 jumbo pasta shells, cooked and drained
1 - 26 oz jar marinara sauce (I use Prego Traditional)
1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan
Heat oil in large sauté pan over med-low heat. Add onion; sauté over low heat until onions begin to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add carrots; sauté 2 – 3 minutes longer. Add mushrooms, zucchini and broccoli; sauté 3 minutes. Add spinach and garlic and sauté until garlic is tender and spinach wilts, about 2 minutes. Stir in fresh basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove pan from heat and place vegetables on a plate lined with several layers of paper towel to drain excess moisture.
When drained and cooled, place vegetables in a large bowl with egg, cottage or ricotta cheese, and mozzarella cheese. Stir until combined.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13” pan with non stick spray.
Pour 1 cup marinara sauce in bottom of pan. Stuff shells with veggie and cheese mixture. Lay in pan over sauce. Pour remaining sauce over shells. Cover pan with foil. Bake 45 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling and shells are heated through. Remove foil. Sprinkle parmesan over shells. Return to oven 5 minutes longer. Remove from oven. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
5 – 6 servings
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