Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Homemade Stuffed Pasta Shells

homemade stuffed shells

Since I cheated with the frozen shells last week, I figured I'd make some from scratch this week. It's not hard, just a tiny bit "fussy." Don't be deterred, though. You don't have to stick to this recipe closely at all, just fix it to fit your taste. I did. First, brown some ground meat (or leave this out altogether and sub in some ricotta or other cheeses to keep it vegetarian). I used half lean ground beef, half ground turkey breast. I didn't tell my husband about the turkey.
2   brown ground meat

Meanwhile, in a food processor or, if you haven't unpacked your food processor yet (because, you know, you've only lived here for two years), your trusty 40-year-old Osterizer blender, puree a package of fresh baby spinach, a couple shots of extra-virgin olive oil, garlic to taste (I keep the jarred, diced stuff on hand for convenience) and some "holy trinity" (onions, peppers, celery). I always buy the pre-chopped packaged frozen trio and keep several bags in the freezer. SO much better than chopping onions after work. If it's too thick, you can add just a bit of water.
1.)  pulverize fresh spinach, EVOO, holy trinity in food processor or 40 year old blender

pureed spinach mixture

Boil large pasta shells. You won't need a whole box, but I use a whole box, because a bunch of them are not going to hold their shape. Cook them just short of the "al dente" phase, because you want them tough enough to handle--plus, they'll be baking in sauce later anyway. They'll get tender.
3   boil pasta shells

While pasta is boiling, add your spinach puree to the meat mixture, and cook it for 10 minutes or so on medium heat. When it's done, this is where you season to taste. I used kosher salt, coarse-ground black pepper, and because the new hasn't worn off yet, some BaconSalt.
5  while pasta is boiling, mix spinach puree with meat, cook 10 minutes

Once cooked and seasoned, transfer the meat/spinach filling mixture to a shallow dish to let it cool. You might want to stick it in the freezer for 5 minutes, even--it has to cool because you'll be adding an egg shortly, and you don't want scrambled egg in your filling.
transfer spinach / meat mixture to shallow dish to cool

Drain and rinse pasta, "shocking" it with cold water so it will be cool enough to handle and won't stick to itself.
drain and rinse pasta shells

Stir in a handful of fresh grated parmesan cheese and one egg to the cooled filling mixture.
stir in a handful of fresh shredded parmesan and one egg to cooled filling mixture

Use a small spoon to stuff the shells with the filling.
stuff shells with filling mixture

Pour about a cup of pasta sauce into the bottom of a baking dish. Yes, it's sauce from a jar. I don't feel much like making fresh sauce when I get home from work, either. I used a tomato-basil variety; store-brand, even.
10.)  spread about a cup of pasta sauce on bottom of baking dish

Lay stuffed shells over sauce in the baking dish.
lay stuffed shells over sauce

Pour remaining sauce from jar over the stuffed shells. Cover, and bake at 350 degrees for about a half hour.
pour remaining sauce over shells, cover and bake

Garnish with grated parmesan, fresh basil, whatever you like, and serve. This is way more filling than it looks, so go easy on the portions, especially if you're serving a side dish.
homemade stuffed shells

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Belinda,
As I read this, I thought that what would really make you happy is to become Rachel Ray! You do love to cook, don't you?

My suggestion has to do with the never-ending laundry. The fact that your laundry area is in the middle of the house can work well for you, instead of being a negative. You don't have to be separated from the rest of the world while laundering, you can keep an eye on the wash/dry status as you work in the kitchen, spend time with Bella in the hearth room, or even from your bedroom.

Here's my suggestion: clean out the entry closet, which is just a few feet from the washer/dryer and stock it with empty hangers. As you take the hanging clothes out of the dryer, put them on hangers immediately (and when finished, transfer them to the appropriate closet, gathering all the empty hangers in that closet to go back into your "clean laundry closet").
For the foldable items, fold them as you remove them from the dryer and stack them on the top of the dryer (just until you finish that load, then TAKE THEM TO THE DRAWER OR SHELF WHERE THEY BELONG). Have Bella put away her own clothes, showing her the proper way to do it, and you'll have taught her a valuable lifelong lesson about taking care of her possessions.

I've always found that it's the clean laundry pile that grows into a monster and attacks your life. By doing what I suggested, the monster never materializes.

You're right about planning and organization. That's how some people seem to be able to do so much more than others, and sometimes make it look easy (it's not). When you were growing up, many of the houses where we lived had the laundry area separated from the rest of the house. I hated being separated from the rest of the family, so I usually lugged the laundry basket of clean laundry into the living area to fold/put on hangers. But I tried to NEVER leave the pile of laundry in the living area. That is a trap and will make your life miserable, so don't do it.

Call me to come to your house for a visit when the pile of boxes is gone from your living room. I'll praise you to high heaven!

I love you!

Mom

Rhiannon said...

This looks yummy, yummy. I may have to have some girls over and make this up. Otherwise I'll make a batch and eat it for 6 days straight then never, ever, ever want to eat it again.

Belinda said...

Rhi--it really was good, and it feeds more people than you'd think, especially if you stuff 'em full.

Mom--you are supersmart. The entry closet as laundry closet is a great idea. That will have to be an upcoming project after the banishment of the living room boxes. I can't be Rachel Ray, though, because Alex would divorce me on the grounds of repulsion, seeing as she sets his teeth on edge. EVOO! EVOO! EVOO! You know, you're not saving any time with your acronyms if, EVERY TIME you say "EVOO" you immediately follow that with the words "Extra Virgin Olive Oil."

Belinda said...

Also, we think she looks like The Joker from Batman.

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