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The World's Best Stuffed Shells

stuffed shells, stuffed shell recipe, best stffed shells
Baked Stuffed Shells
Ever since I was a little monkey myself (well before my first martini) my go-to comfort food has been my mom's baled stuffed shells. Something about the gooey goodness of melted cheese wrapped in pasta with soothing red sauce always makes my heart feel a little lighter. Here is a version my mom recently made with my little brother (who is not so little anymore). This version features a yummy sun-dried tomato cream sauce as opposed to your standard tomato gravy.

Shopping list:
1 c (at least) grated mozzarella or asiago cheese
1 container good ricotta cheese (no-fat = not good)
1 c. grated parmesean (fresh)
1 tbs. dried basil or 1/4 cup fresh leaves chopped
1 egg
jumbo shell pasta
1 jar/bag sun-dried tomatoes
head of garlic
1 yellow onion
8oz heavy cream
8oz whole milk

Preheat your oven to 350

For the filling:
1 container good ricotta cheese (no-fat = not good)
1 c. grated parmesean (fresh)
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tbs. basil
1 egg
Blend these ingredients in a small bowl and allow to marry in the fridge while you prepare the sauce and cook your JUMBO SHELLS according to the package directions.
* You can always add other yummy stuff to your filling: cooked italian sausage or spinach are favs in my house.

Big handful of sun-dried tomatoes (I use dried, you can use the oil-preserved kind if you prefer-just drain them) - reconstituted in 1 c boiling water for about 10 minutes. When they're soft, put them in the food processor, along with 3 cloves of garlic and 1 small onion (chop it beforehand). Pulse those babies until you have a nice emulsion. Add some of the tomato water if necessary to make a nice pasty goo.

In a medium saucepan, melt 2 tbs. butter over medium heat. Stir in about 2 tbs. flour, cooking for a minute or so to make your roux for the cream sauce. Slowly whisk in 1 c heavy cream, 1 c whole milk, your sun-dried tomato mixture and 1 tbs. basil. Keep over medium heat--you don't want the cream sauce to start boiling madly--it will break. When it's thickened, add 1 c (at least) grated parmesean. Stir and allow cheese to melt. Remove from heat. Taste, add stuff you like (pepper flakes and/or garlic, perhaps?)

Drain your shells and slide them into a bowl of slightly warm water--this keeps them from sticking together while you fill them. Shake the water off and fill each shell with about 1 tbs of your ricotta mixture and place in a 13x9 pan (I spray it with cooking spray). Keep stuffing and nestling your shells into the pan. If you have broken shells, fill what you can and tuck the rest of the broken noodles between your stuffed ones. Use all shells--somehow the proportion works out so that you're filling the last of the shells with the last of the ricotta. Another kitchen miracle.

Drizzle your nice, thick sauce over your shells. Cover with 1 c (at least) grated mozzarella or asiago cheese. Spray a sheet of aluminium foil with cooking spray and cover your shells, spray side down. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes--uncover and bake for 20 minutes more. Allow your shells to rest for 10 minutes after you remove them from the oven--they'll tighten a little and make serving much easier.

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