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).












101 Cookbooks’ Stuffed Shells


Zest of one lemon

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!


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