Monday, February 26, 2007

Stuffed Shells

This is nice when you want something a little "dressy" for dinner: you can make it ahead, so it's really nice for weeknights.

You can stuff a pasta shell with a lot of different things. I usually use a ricotta base with added cheese and vegetables. This recipe is highly variable. The basic principle is this: cooked pasta shell, highly seasoned ricotta-based filling, sauce on the bottom of the dish and over the top of the pasta.
This is this week's version, read on after the recipe for other ideas.

Stuffed Shells with Spinach, Artichokes and Goat Cheese

  • 1 box jumbo shells
  • 16 oz. ricotta (I usually use part-skim)
  • 1 small package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 small package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped
  • 2 small logs of goat cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 28 oz. (or so) tomato sauce (I use Trader Joe's Sugo al Pomodoro)

Cook the shells according to the instructions on the box. Don't overcook, they should be al dente to hold up to the baking. Drain and set aside.

Mix together the ricotta, spinach, artichokes, and 1 log of goat cheese. Add salt and pepper - depending on your ricotta, this will need more salt than you think. After the seasoning is right, lightly beat the egg and stir it in to the filling.

Put about 1/3 of the sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Stuff the shells using a soupspoon, small scoop or a ziploc baggie (put the filling into a baggie, seal, cut off one corner and use it like a pastry bag to fill the shells - for this to work, your artichokes need to be cut small).

As you fill each shell, lay it into the baking dish. When all the shells are stuffed and snuggled into the pan (the hardest part is portioning out the filling - I find that this amount of filling, stuffs about 28 shells - you may have shells left over), pour the remaining sauce over. Crumble the other log of goat cheese over the top.

To store, cover with foil and refrigerate. When ready to eat, bake at 350 for about 1 hour - covered with foil for the first 30 minutes. (If at room temp, probably only about 30 minutes.)

Other fillin' choices (presume the ricotta base and tomato sauce stays the same):

  • Sauteed sausage, oregano and mozzarella
  • Roasted peppers and onions, kalamata olives and feta
  • Sauteed bitter greens (radicchio is nice), carmelized onion, pine nuts and smoked provolone

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