Monday, June 20, 2011

Stuffed Shells

There is nothing new or terribly innovative about this recipe. 

It is shell-shaped pasta stuffed with a ricotta cheese mixture and covered in sauce and more cheese. 

It's kind of old-fashioned.  But it is really good.

There are three basic parts to this: the sauce, the pasta, and the filling for the pasta.  They are easy steps.

Start with the sauce.

I went the easy road with the sauce and used a jarred marinara.  I'm in full pantry-and-freezer-clean-out-mode-before-we-move, so I took this opportunity to use a jar sitting in my pantry.

But even though I used a jar of sauce, I started out right: by sauteing an onion and some garlic in olive oil.

You could throw in ground beef and/or Italian sausage at this point and that would be delicious.  That's what I would do...if I were a normal person.

But since I'm in full clean-out-the-freezer mode, I tossed in a pound of frozen meatballs and cooked them in the sauce.  A little unorthodox to put meatballs on top of stuffed shells, but not a bad choice.

I added the sauce at the same time I added the meatballs.  You can ignore me right now if you want to use your favorite recipe for tomato sauce.  Here's mine:

Let the sauce simmer over low heat while you cook the pasta.

Put a big pot of water on to boil.  When it boils, add a bunch of salt and the jumbo shells.  A 12 oz package worked for me.  I had a few left over, but that was fine because some of them tore a little bit.  I'd rather have a few too many than run out, anyway.

While the shells cook and the sauce simmers, we can put together the filling.  I used a 15-oz container of ricotta cheese (it's about 2 cups) and two cups of cottage cheese.  If you're one of the people who shudders at the thought of cottage cheese, just use all ricotta cheese. 

But something possessed me at the grocery store and I bought the largest container of cottage cheese I've ever seen.  So now I'm trying to come up with ways to use it.  Besides eating it with a fork, I haven't come up with too many ways.  I'll be eating cottage cheese for the next month.

And crack three eggs and toss them in.  Add a tablespoon of Italian seasoning and a cup and a half of shredded parmesan cheese.

And stir it up!

I like the way the dried herbs look in the cheese mixture.  If you want to use fresh herbs, basil and thyme would be really good.

When the shells are done, drain them in a colander and let them cool for a minute.

Now go outside to see what is causing your 3-year-old to shriek.  Squish the microscopic spider that is causing the problem.

Return to your kitchen and spray a 9x13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Or you could be like me and use two 8x8 dishes so there's one to eat and one to freeze!

And then I remembered that the whole point of this dish was to clean out my freezer.

Darn.  Too late now.

Spoon a little of the sauce into the bottom of the dish.

Then start stuffing the shells!  Just lay them in the dish any old way.  It's all going to get covered with more sauce and cheese, so the appearance doesn't matter too much.
My shells are not perfect but I'm okay with that. 

Now cover them with sauce.  Lots of sauce.  And meatballs, if you're weird like me.

And then cover the sauce with cheese.  Lots of cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes or so.  We want it to be very bubbly and the cheese to be very melty.

I forgot to take a picture of the finished product.  But I think we all know what bubbly cheese looks like.

Hope you enjoy!

Stuffed Shells

12 oz. package jumbo shells pasta, cooked according to package directions and drained
1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Large jar of marinara sauce (or two regular-sized jars)
1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage
15 oz container of ricotta cheese
2 cups cottage cheese
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese
1 T Italian seasoning
8 oz. package shredded Italian blend cheese

While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil in a large skillet and saute the onion until soft, for about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook another minute.  Add the ground beef and sausage and cook it until cooked through and crumbly.  Drain most of the grease from the pan.  Add the sauce and simmer on low while you make the cheese filling.

Put the ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, eggs, and Italian seasoning in a bowl and mix well.

Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray and ladel enough sauce into the dish to barely cover the bottom.

Drain the pasta in a colander and when it is cool enough to handle, begin to stuff the shells with the cheese mixture.  Each shell will hold about 2 tablespoons of cheese filling.  Place the stuffed shells in the dish.  You will probably have some shells left over.

Cover the shells with the sauce.  Top with the shredded Italian blend cheese.

Bake on 350 for about 30-35 minutes until it is hot and bubbly.


BWF said...

Yummy! But I'm not gonna make it if it doesn't call for a pound of cheese! ;)

Elizabeth said...

The good news is that, between the ricotta and the cheese on top, there's more than a pound of cheese. :) I just couldn't bring myself to say that...