Tuesday Timesaver: Easy Cheesy Pasta with Veggies & Tomato Sauce

Mason, actually eating his food instead of throwing it. This pasta dish is a new staple in our house.

Best for Babies 10+ Months

You’ll put in some time upfront, but this rich-and-cheesy pasta dish is worth it. It’s the ultimate make-ahead meal, and it can feed a baby who is 10 months or older up to 12 meals, depending on the size of his or her appetite. You just portion it out and freeze the leftovers. Make it the night before if you’re feeding the entire family — it’s warm and cozy and it’s appealing to even the pickiest eaters. I also think the flavors are even better the next day, after they’ve melded together.

Here’s how the recipe came about.

Mason is still on his cheese kick. With very few exceptions, if it isn’t filled with or covered in cheese it will probably end up on the floor. Extra points if mommy steps on a discarded piece of fruit and it squishes. After sitting and watching Bug throw every green bean and piece of broccoli on the floor during dinner Saturday night, I decided to combine green veggies with two of his great loves — pasta and cheese — to see what would happen. My inspiration was this recipe, so I created a baby-/toddler-friendly, veggie-filled version of it without the nuts.

I baked the pasta dish, let it stand for about 10 minutes, and then cut two shells into tiny pieces. After it cooled, I served a few bites to Mason. He looked at it for a few minutes and then tried a bite. He gave me a look that seemed to say, “You’ve finally gotten it!,” and then he tried another bite and another…He loved it so much he ate nearly three whole shells. Chris volunteered to “test” out the recipe and wound up eating two helpings of it.

Try it out — and let us know what you think!


Easy Cheesy Pasta with Veggies & Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

24 dried jumbo shell macaroni
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 15-ounce carton of ricotta cheese
1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup fresh or frozen broccoli florets, stems removed
1/2 cup steamed spinach, chopped

Directions

1. Cook pasta shells according to package directions. Drain shells; rinse with cold water and drain well. Set shells aside. Preheat oven to 350 degree F.

2. Meanwhile, for filling, in a large bowl stir together the eggs, ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella, 1/2 cup cooked broccoli, and 1/2 cup steamed spinach.

3. Spread 1 cup of the pasta sauce in the bottom of a 3-quart baking dish. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of filling into each cooked shell. Arrange filled shells in the baking dish. Pour remaining sauce over shells. Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake, covered, about 45 minutes or until heated through. Makes 6 servings (adults and older children) or 12 servings (10 months+).

4. Freeze leftovers for up to 3 months.

Cover the bottom of a baking dish with one cup of tomato sauce. Arrange stuffed pasta shells in a single layer on top.

Pour remaining sauce over uncooked shells and top with shredded mozzarella cheese.

Bake pasta for 45 minutes, at 350 degrees F, covered. Let it stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

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