View Full Version : CL's Four-Cheese Stuffed Shells, can I tweak it to further lighten?

01-04-2007, 11:49 AM
I would like to make some stuffed shells to give to a neighbor. I have made CL's Four-Cheese Stuffed Shells with Smoky Marinara many times and it is one of my favorites! Plus, love the way you could freeze it for future dinners.

My neighbors are watching fat/cholesterol so I was wondering if I could tweak it a bit to lower the amount of fat/calories without sacrificing taste. The recipe says ricotta - I would think the partskim would be fine (I think that is what I typically buy anyway). What about using non-fat cottage cheese instead of 1% -- would that change the texture/taste? I'm not sure if the non-fat ricotta would be a good move -- that might be pushing it.

Perhaps up the spinach, and go lighter on the cheeses.

Any suggestions on how to lower it a bit would be great. Or, any recipes for stuffed shells (light) would be terrific too!! I just recently tried CL's Feta-Spinach shells but I seem to prefer the Four Cheese.

Four-Cheese Stuffed Shells with Smoky Marinara

This dish goes straight from the freezer to oven - no thawing required. The fire-roasted tomatoes in the marinara sauce give the dish a subtle smoky flavor. You can also easily vary the filling by adding basil or oregano and a different cheese. (We tried fontina instead of mozzarella and threw in some arugula for a peppery bite.) Make some garlic bread and a green salad and dinner's on.

1 pound jumbo shell pasta (40 shells)
Cooking spray
1 (12-ounce) carton 1% low-fat cottage cheese
1 (15-ounce) carton ricotta cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Asiago cheese
3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
6 cups Smoky Marinara
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375.
Coat 2 (13 x 9-inch) baking dishes with cooking spray; set aside.
Place cottage cheese and ricotta cheese in a food processor; process until smooth. Combine cottage cheese mixture, Asiago, and next 6 ingredients (Asiago through spinach).
Spoon or pipe 1 tablespoon cheese mixture into each shell. Arrange half of stuffed shells, seam sides up, in one prepared dish. Pour 3 cups Smoky Marinara over stuffed shells. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mozzarella. Repeat procedure with remaining stuffed shells, Smoky Marinara, and mozzarella in remaining prepared dish.
Cover with foil. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
To freeze unbaked casserole: Prepare through Step 5. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing to remove as much air as possible. Wrap with heavy-duty foil. Store in freezer for up to 2 months.
To prepare frozen unbaked casserole: Preheat oven to 375. Remove foil; reserve foil. Remove plastic wrap; discard wrap. Cover frozen casserole with reserved foil; bake at 375 for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the shells are thoroughly heated.

Yield: 2 casseroles, 5 servings per dish (serving size: about 4 stuffed shells and about 1/2 cup smoky marinara)

CALORIES 470(30% from fat); FAT 15.7g (sat 8.8g,mono 4.7g,poly 0.9g); PROTEIN 28.3g; CHOLESTEROL 47mg; CALCIUM 508mg; SODIUM 916mg; FIBER 5.3g; IRON 3.8mg; CARBOHYDRATE 52.7g


01-04-2007, 12:31 PM
You can absolutely lighten this further! I've made this using fat free cottage cheese and fat free ricotta and I did reduce the amount of mozzarella as well and it was fine. Not sure how it was different since I have never and would never make it with the 1%, full fat ricotta, etc. but I thought it was very tasty as is.

I ALWAYS sub fat free milk, ricotta, yogurt, cream cheese, etc. whenever they call for 1%, 2% or even full fat and have never had any issues with doing so. (I have a theory that CL sometimes ups the fat as much as they can until they hit 30% in order to try and improve flavor - so even if a recipe works fine with skim milk, they'll use 2% if they can get away with it with the numbers. So I'm just not so sure it's always necessary to use what they've used.)

01-04-2007, 12:32 PM
I don't know if i'd try to use non-fat products as subs. I personally don't like nonfat cottage cheese---it seems slimy to me and the tast seems off.

I don't mind 1% or low fat versions though.

If you could find a low fat version of the ricotta, that might help some. The cheese are probably needed to add flavor to the filling so I don't think I'd cut there. I don't think of asiago and parmesan as "high fat" cheeses.

The only other place I could see to maybe cut back is the amount of mozzerella on top? It already calls for part-skim...

Overall---it doesn't look too bad-fat wise and if paired with healthy sides like a salad or some sauteed green vegetables---I think it would end up being a fairly healthy meal.

01-04-2007, 12:49 PM
I can appreciate needing to go even lighter on a dish like this. My DH keeps his saturated fat grams to 15 per day in order to control his MS, and as is, this is not a recipe we could make.

I've never made this particular dish, but just in general, we have good luck with fat-free cheeses as long as they are inside something (fat free cottage or ricotta in lasagna, for example) and not on top. For DH, I would use the fat free cottage cheese or ricotta, possibly mixing fat free w/ a 1% (never whole milk) and leave out the mozarrella entirely. (We even make pizza w/ out mozarella--who knew that could be good?) Parmesan and Asiago aren't low fat, but you tend to need less because they are so strongly flavored. I would just use less of these.

Yes, you probably lose some flavor points the lower in fat you go, but for us anyway, it would be the difference between being able to enjoy the dish in a different form, or having to skip over it forever and ever and just making something else instead. (We make pizza without cheese or we just don't get pizza, for example)

01-04-2007, 01:07 PM
I would also not use nonfat products. 3/4 of a cup of parmesan is a lot, especially if you get a higher quality brand. You could probably cut that to 1/2 cup, and reduce the asiago to 3/4 cup or 1/2 cup too. You could also add other vegetables if you're looking for more bulk.

01-04-2007, 05:52 PM
HI! Maybe you could try it for dinner one night before giving it to them. I do that sometimes before I give to someone!!!

I personally never use any dairy products that aren't Fat Free (except cheddar cheese-then I use light-taste thing for me)-as it is fat you don't want! I use FF cottage cheese and Ricotta for manicotti, stuffed shells and lasagna and it is SO yummy. As for the mozz cheese-I would either use FF or lite - if you can avoid using full fat that is best. I bet it won't change the taste as much as you think-and best of all if they don't know it will taste good to them!!! The sauce takes over in this type of recipe so that is what they will be focusing on!

Good Luck!!!

01-04-2007, 08:41 PM
You say that your neighbors are watching cholesterol- so you'd want to check with them before using non-fat dairy products. If they are following the South Beach Diet or a modified GI diet, non-fat dairy products are off-limits because they have more sugars to compensate for the less fat. Low-fat dairy products (like 1% cottage cheese, part skim ricotta, and 1% milk) are mostly acceptable though.

For changes, I would use Romano instead of Asiago, as I think it has more flavor, and I would use half the amount called for. I make these shells every once in a while, and they also benefit greatly by adding a couple of cloves of garlic to the filling. I think that flavor addition would more than compensate for reducing the cheese if you felt so inclined.