Monday, September 14, 2009

Cheesy Stuffed Shells

First off, I have been sick as a dog so my cooking has been slacking. I Still got dinner on the table but it wasn’t out of love of cooking it was the basic need to feed a bunch of hungry family members. And my blogging had to wait also, this was from last week. Tonight I had a new recipe all planned out and then I did a switcheroo and made the yummy Chicken Cacciatore Ravioli Stew again. I do love that soup. I had to change a few things because I didnt know I was making it, and it was just as good. This will be a regular this fall/winter

I still am not sure why I tackled this recipe on a weeknight…while I was sick…after I took a long nap….and only had a short time to get a hungry toddler fed. This is a Sunday night meal for sure. I was really wanting something Italian and I went through my cooking magazines that I obsessively buy and this was a pull from the latest Food Network Magazine. I always buy the magazines and then never make what’s in them. So I decided it’s time to get my money's worth. This makes a ton of food. We had leftovers for days. I would suggest using the biggest darn pan you have.
I altered the original recipe because it used Tofu and hmm, well I can't be comfortable with spending hours making something and then gambling on tofu. It also had cottage cheese as the stuffing cheese. No self respecting Italian uses Cottage cheese!!!! They pictured the mom who made up this recipe and she in fact looks very mid-western so it isn't her fault, how could she know--but we know better!!!!

Cheesy Stuffed Shells
adapted from Food Network Magazine Oct 2009
this picture doesn't really do them justice since they are covered in sauce and cheese--sorry

For the Sauce
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup grated zucchini
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 20 ozs package of ground turkey
Freshly ground pepper
For the Shells
1 12-ounce box jumbo pasta shells
1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Cooking spray
Preheat the oven to 350.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
Cook ground turkey until crumbled and brown
Add the carrot, zucchini, onion and celery and saute until soft but not brown, 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the basil, oregano, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes and 2 cups water.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, prepare the shells: Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 8 minutes; drain. Mix the spinach, ricotta cheese, Parmesan, 1/2 cup mozzarella, the egg and garlic in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper.
Mist a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
Spread about 1 cup of the sauce in the dish.
Stuff the cheese mixture into the shells and place in the baking dish, open-side up.
Pour the remaining sauce over the shells.
Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Uncover, sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella and bake for 15 minutes.
Let cool slightly before serving.
Ok so it was a lot of work. Lots of steps, lots of ingredients, but WOW!!!
It was worth the effort (thank goodness). What I really liked was the extra addition of the hidden veggies. Even if you don't make shells, the sauce would be great with regular pasta. You didn't know the veggies were there but it was a really great sauce on its own. I really liked the shell cheese mixture too. Sometimes there is something about the stuffing I don't quite like but this one was excellent. I didn't like that I had so many shells leftover that I threw in the garbage. I think I over stuff my next time I think I will stick with 1/2 the box. I think it made around 25 shells as it is. I think I could have even stuffed them more. I am not sure how the original recipe was but this was really awesome. It would be a great meal to Entertain with because a few shells go a long way and they just look really impressive. I know my picture kind of stinks but after cooking them forever, and being near collapse, I just wanted to eat.


  1. My neighbors (about 4-5 families of us) and I are concocting a plan where each family cooks dinner one night of the week and we all come over and eat it. I don't know if I could handle that every single week, but 1 or 2 weeks a month maybe. What makes me excited about it is that it will give me a chance to tackle some large serving dishes like this one to make, that I normally avoid. There's only so much frozen leftovers I can handle, so I normally have to cut recipes down to a 1/4 or so. This is something everyone would like!

  2. Katie this would be perfect. You could actually do the sauce ahead of time and do the cheese mixture ahead of time and that would cut down on the labor intensive part that is required when you are starving to death. These were really really good. I am picky about my sauce and it was one of the best I have had in awhile.