Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Stuffed Shells

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I haven't had stuffed shells in years.  My mom used to make them every once in a great while when I was little.  She also liked to make manicotti.  That probably explains why I love stuffed pasta so much.  

I'll take any excuse to make a big pot of tomato sauce... add a creamy cheesy mixture and I'm beyond excited to make dinner.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, there is nothing better than a big pot of homemade tomato sauce simmering in the kitchen.  That saying, "smells like home" came from exactly that.  It brings an automatic feeling of warmth and comfort to any home.

So when I randomly decided this week I was craving stuffed shells, I was looking forward to experimenting with my tomato sauce and a new ricotta cheese mixture.  I've made these two things a couple of different ways, like this Eggplant Rollatini and Baked Ziti and Mini Meatballs.  

This time I decided to kick my sauce up a notch with some bacon and ground beef to provide a smoky flavor as well as a hearty main course element to an otherwise appropriate side dish.  The flavors were great and it was everything I was hoping for.  

A few simple steps and you can recreate this delicious and weeknight dinner appropriate meal for your family!


Recipe Tips
  • Next time I'm going to try making the tomato sauce without ground beef.  While I enjoyed how hearty the sauce was, I also enjoy a smoother sauce over stuffed shells.  While the flavor was good, the smoky bacon may stand out more without the overpowering ground beef.  Looking forward to seeing how it comes out next time!

Begin with sauteing your ground beef in a large skillet over medium/high heat, stirring regularly:

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Until no longer pink, about 8 minutes.  Once cooked, strain the fat and set your cooked ground beef aside:

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Meanwhile, roughly chop your bacon into small pieces:

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In a large skillet, cook your bacon over medium/high heat until almost golden:

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Drain your bacon fat, reserving 2 tablespoons.  Add your garlic and red pepper flakes to your pan and saute in the reserved bacon fat over medium heat until your garlic is cooked, about 1 minute:

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Then add your marinara sauce:

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And your reserved ground beef.  Mix until combined and cook at a low simmer while you prepare the rest of your ingredients:

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In a large mixing bowl, combine your ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, dried basil, dried oregano, egg yolks, garlic, salt, and pepper:

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Mix your ingredients until well blended and add your spinach and chopped parsley:

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Stir until combined and your spinach is incorporated into your cheese mixture:

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Cook your shells in a large pot of boiling water for 10 minutes or until just under cooked.  Strain the water, drizzle with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and mix until combined to avoid your pasta from sticking to each other.  Once cooled enough to handle, stuff your shells with your cheese mixture:

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Fill them with enough cheese to open the top slightly, about 2 tablespoons worth:

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Spread about 2 ladles full of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 pan and place your stuffed shells, cheese side up, next to one another until you run out of space.  I was able to fit 22 shells in one pan:

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Then spoon your meat sauce over the top of your shells:

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Sprinkle with your mozzarella cheese:

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Place your dish in the oven uncovered and bake at 350 degrees:


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For 25-30 minutes or until your cheese is melted and bubbling.  Set aside to cool slightly and sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley:


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Serve your stuffed shells:


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And enjoy!

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Stuffed Shells
Makes about 30 shells (1 1/2 9x13 pans)

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25-30 minutes
(Printable Recipe)

Ingredients
Tomato Sauce
1/2 pound ground beef
6 strips of bacon, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 cups homemade tomato sauce

Cheese Filling
1 28-ounce container of ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 egg yolks
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup spinach
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1 box jumbo pasta shells
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
chopped parsley for garnish

Directions
Begin with cooking your shells in a large pot of boiling water for 10 minutes or until just under cooked.  Your pasta will continue to cook in the oven.  Strain the water, drizzle with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and mix until combined to avoid your pasta from sticking to each other.

Then work on preparing your sauce by sauteing your ground beef in a large skillet over medium/high heat, stirring regularly until no longer pink, about 8 minutes.  Once cooked, strain the fat and set your cooked ground beef aside.  

Meanwhile, roughly chop your bacon into small pieces.  In a large skillet, cook your bacon over medium/high heat until almost golden.  Drain your bacon fat from the pan, reserving 2 tablespoons.  Add your garlic and red pepper flakes to your pan with the bacon and reserved bacon fat and saute over medium heat until your garlic is cooked, about 1 minute.  Then add your marinara sauce and your reserved ground beef.  Mix until combined and cook at a low simmer, stirring occasionally, while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.  

In a large mixing bowl, combine your ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, dried basil, dried oregano, egg yolks, salt, and pepper.  Mix your ingredients until well blended.  Then add your spinach and chopped parsley and stir until combined and your spinach is incorporated into your cheese mixture.  




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34 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness, they came out perfect...you have no idea how much I love these!!! Thank you for the beautiful pictures and fantastic recipe!!! Yummy!!!

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  2. Those look so incredibly awesome and amazing. I want them now!!!!

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  3. I love that you put bacon in these!

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  4. These look so good! I'm making these for dinner tomorrow, I hope I can stop drooling before then.

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  5. Oh wow Chelsea! How did you know that I was such a big fan of stuffed shells?! Yours look great...totally yummy!

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  6. Wow, that looks so incredibly good. And I sit here right before my lunch hour and read this. My mouth is totally watering!

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  7. WOW!!! I know what is for dinner tonight! :) Love the addition of bacon....bacon makes everything better

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  8. That all looks so heavenly together, a real comfort meal.

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  9. These look awesome...is there anything better than cheese and pasta put together??

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  10. Your stuffed shells turned out beautiful. I am planning on making your recipe in the near future! As soon as I saw them I was instantly craving pasta.

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  11. I haven't had these in years, too! Love the red pepper flakes - the perfect touch.

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  12. It is funny how a dish can say both home and extravagant at the same time. That is what you dish says to me, as well as looking utterly delicious too. I haven't had stuffed pasta in a long time but I am definitely in the mood for some right now.

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  13. This dish looks so delicious! I find a similar recipe from the cookbook but I can't find jumbo shell pasta. I may use small one instead.

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  14. i soooooo love stuffed pastas!! Looks fabulous, just the thing to warm me up on a rainy night!

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  15. These look fabulous. So comforting, so lovely. I haven't made these in years. My aunt used to make them every Christmas Eve. They're definitely on my list.

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  16. You sold me with the first photo! I love stuffed shells and yours look magnificent!

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  17. yummy yummy we enjoy shell pasta this looks delicious

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  18. These stuffed shells look beautiful! Such a classic dish. Yum!

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  19. Your stuffed shells look so good, this would be the perfect dinner with lots of leftovers!

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  20. Mmmmmm, I'm craving shells now. And that sauce. It's so rich and beautiful looking.

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  21. Chelsea, these look amazing. Great pics too - I can practically smell that bacon and garlic.

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  22. These do look scrumptious! You've inspired me :)

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  23. I'll be adding that to my June menu!!! Can't wait to try them!

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  24. These look wonderful...I used to make them for my kids all the time but it's been awhile for me too :)

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  25. The bacon does make them even better. :) Wonderful meal idea....I haven't made stuffed shells myself in quite a while.

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  26. This is pure perfection! It looks so good and makes me want to go make stuffed shells now, too :-)

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  27. Oooh wow. This reminds me that I haven;t made stuffed shells in a long time either. These look so homey and delicious.

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  28. Its been years since I have had these. Lovely!

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  29. Oh Chelsea. I have everything I need to make these and I am going to do so. I absolutely love the recipe...every single thing about it. I can't wait. Many thanks for sharing.

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  30. Love that you added bacon in the sauce. I am sure it just gives and extra burst of flavor. Your stuffed shells look divine!

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  31. Do you add more garlic and red pepper even if you have added the amount of garlic and red pepper that you have in the recipe for the homemade tomato sauce?

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  32. Anonymous- No, only put in the red pepper and garlic noted for the sauce. Hope you enjoy the recipe!

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  33. Just made this the other night and it was a hit! Have you ever made the entire dish and put it in the freezer? Please let me know! My friend is due to have a baby boy soon and I am planning a week of dinners to make and freeze. If you have any other suggestions that would freeze well, please let me know!

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