Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Stuffed shells for these long winter nights

While this photo may be a disaster
I could not resist gushing over this completely delicious dish.

I don't know about you, but in the winter, I crave pasta dishes with gooey cheese and comforting red sauce all the time. And, while I love lasagna, it can be a bit time consuming. Enter: stuffed shells to save the day! (Thanks, Giada!)

These shells are stuffed with a ricotta-parmesan-basil mixture and covered with good marinara and mozzarella cheese. Now, I really enjoyed the simplicity of this dish, but you could add pretty much anything you wanted to the filling: mushrooms, other herbs, shredded up carrots, peppers... your imagination could run wild! Alternatively, make these like they are and add a roasted veggie on the side, like asparagus with some lemon zest and juice. Whatever you do, you cannot go wrong.

And, they are so easy to make!

To start: boil your jumbo pasta shells in salted water for 4-5 minutes. They will be pretty hard when they are done, but they will keep on baking in the oven. In the meantime, whip up your ricotta mix: ricotta, parmesan, egg yolks, basil, salt, and pepper. Like I said, you could add just about anything to this mix, but feel free to keep it 'pure'. Now, stuff the shells with about 2 tablespoons of the mixture.
And, nestle them side by side in a baking dish, over a layer of sauce.
Now, if you are good at following directions, you will next cover the shells with sauce, and then sprinkle mozzarella over them. So it should look like this at the end:
If you are bad at following directions, and you put the mozzarella on first, and then the pasta sauce, you will have to do some 'rearranging'.
Pretty? No. But, the flavors were still dynamite.

Now, bake that off for 25-30 minutes, until it is bubbly and golden (which would be easier to accomplish by following directions...).
Top with a handful of basil.
Once it has cooled a bit...
Buon Appetito!

Stuffed Shells (adapted* from Giada)
1/2 box (6 oz) jumbo pasta shells
1 24 oz jar of good marinara
1 15 oz container of whole milk ricotta
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

Lightly oil a 9x9 basking dish and set aside. Preheat oven to 350.

Partially cook the pasta shells in a large pot of boiling, salted water until slightly tender, but still quite firm, about 4-5 minutes. Drain pasta shells well and allow to cool.

In a medium bowl, stir together ricotta, Parmesan, egg yolks, basil, salt, and pepper.

Spoon 3/4 cup (or whatever it takes) of the sauce over the bottom of the baking dish. Fill the cooked shells with about 2 Tablespoons of mixture per shell (just enough until the shells are full). Arrange the shells in the baking dish. Spoon the remaining sauce over the shells, then sprinkle with mozzarella.

Bake in the lower third of your oven until the filling is heated through and the top is golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.

Let rest for a little bit before serving.

*I halved Giada's recipe, and I didn't make the arrabiata sauce

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