Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Easy Stuffed Shells
Lately I think it's so weird that I can't find manicotti shells or large shells in some grocery stores (Gelsons, Whole Foods, Ralphs). Manicotti was a favorite homemade dish of mine growing up and I remember asking my mom to make it on my birthday. When I finally found these larger shells (Barilla), I bought a couple of boxes and we've been eating these pretty often lately. It's an easy dinner to make ahead of time and refrigerate before baking or to throw together at the last minute, especially if you use canned sauce, and ricotta cheese usually has an expiration date of a couple months away so you can buy a bunch and keep it in the refrigerator. I think now that I'm pregnant, I'm making up for all the months last year that I didn't eat pasta.
This is a really basic recipe - you can add spinach or other veggies to the filling. I had leftover spicy turkey sausage (browned) from the chili rellenos so I put it in the ricotta cheese mixture this time. You can also use your favorite homemade marinara or meat sauce if you don't want to go the jarred route (I made a killer sauce the other night and will post it soon). Sometimes I drizzle a little pesto over the shells before the rest of the tomato sauce.
Stuffed Shells (serves 4)
1 jar of pasta sauce
1/2 box of large shells
16 oz ricotta cheese
3-4 cups of mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
Cook half the box of shells according to the package directions. Drain. Put a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of an 8x8 pan. Mix together the ricotta, 2 c. of mozzarella cheese, the egg, and the parmesan cheese. Add some seasonings - I usually do red pepper flakes, a little salt, and dried basil. If you want to, this is where you can add spinach, fresh basil, sauteed onion, browned meat, etc.
Individually stuff each shell with 1-2 T of the ricotta mixture and put them on top of the sauce in the pan (I put the stuffing side facing up). Fill the pan with as many shells as you can. Pour more sauce over the shells and top with the rest of the mozzarella cheese. Baked uncovered for 30-45 minutes or until hot, bubbly and golden brown.
*For a full 9x13, you might need more than 1 jar of sauce, you can use the whole box of shells, and probably 3 cups of ricotta cheese.