Stuff It…yeah, I said it

Time for a confession… I love cooking. Love it. So when I found the blog 101 Cookbooks, I also fell in love. The recipes and photography are incredible! Here is my pictoral stab at 101 Cookbooks’ Stuffed Shells (recipe to follow photos).

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101 Cookbooks’ Stuffed Shells

Ingredients:

Zest of one lemon

Sauce:
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
4 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can crushed red tomatoes
1 14-ounce can crushed red tomatoes

Shell Filling:
1 15 oz container ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup grated mozzarella
1 bunch of chives, minced
25 jumbo dried pasta shells

Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan and sprinkle the zest of 1/2 the lemon across it. Set aside. Get a big pot of water boiling, and preheat your oven to 350F.

To make the sauce, combine the olive oil, red pepper flakes, sea salt, and garlic in a cold saucepan. Stir while you heat the saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute just 45 seconds or so until everything is fragrant (do not let the garlic brown). Stir in the tomatoes and heat to a gentle simmer, just a minute or two. Remove from heat and carefully take a taste (you don’t want to burn your tongue)…If the sauce needs more salt add it now. Let cool.

To make the filling, combine the ricotta, egg, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until combined, then stir in the mozzarella, remaining lemon zest, and 3/4 of the chives. Set aside.

Cook the shells according to package instructions in well-salted water – until al dente. Do not overcook, as the shells will rip as you attempt to fill them. Drain and let the shells cool long enough to handle.

Spread 1/3 of sauce across the bottom of the prepared pan. Fill each shell with cheese mixture, and arrange in a single layer in the pan. Spoon the remaining sauce over the shells, cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and uncover return to oven for 20-25 minutes or until the shells are cooked through. Sprinkle with the remaining chives and serve hot.

I cannot take credit for the recipe outlined above, that is all 101 Cookbooks. But here are a few adaptions I made to the original recipe:

– Added spinach to the cheese mixture- I used frozen that was rinsed and thoroughly drained
– Added mushrooms between each shell and then crubmled mushrooms around and on top of the shells before pouring the sauce mixture
– Substituted green onion for chives (simply because I forgot to pick some up)

The cheese mixture, with spinach was a perfect pairing with the tomato-y red sauce. Though I was making dinner for 3, it would be a great make ahead meal for a large dinner, or when family comes to town. Except for the shells, all other aspects can be made ahead until you are ready to assemble.

I like that the adapatations increased my veggie intake and made me feel comfortably full. When I make this again in the future (because I aboslutely will) I would make the following modifications:

– Eliminate the lemon zest (just not my thing)
– Add ground turkery or italian sausage in the sauce mixture
– More garlic
– 1 small can tomato paste
– Extra black pepper and red pepper flakes
– Serve with wine

This was a great recipe and a wonderful place to start. I was a little intimidated but the entire process was pretty easy and much quicker than I had anticipated. And I wasn’t kidding next time, I will serve this with a side of Cab, as in Cabernet.

Don’t forget to check out 101 Cookbooks for yourself! http://101cookbooks.com/

Cheers!

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