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Stuffed Shells

June 10th, 2009

stuffed-shells-ck-428921-lI am the queen of finding recipes that sound good and fiddling with them until they taste the way I want them to.  Stuffed shells is no different.  It’s so easy and so good and I’m so damn particular that i just had to change it up a bit.

For starters, the sauce (I still haven’t found a decent completely-from-scratch sauce recipe.) didn’t call for tomato paste.  Which might be good for some people, but Master and I like our sauce really thick and chunky.

So here’s the final draft (sort of) of the recipe I use.  Naturally, I still fiddle with spices and amounts sometimes depending on the flavor I’m looking for.  But it’s damn good just like this.

Sauce:

2 Tablespoons oil ([[EVOO]] is best)
1 Large Vidalia onion, diced
3-4 Large cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tablespoons dried oregano
1 Tablespoons dried sweet basil
1 Can diced tomatoes
3 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
1-2 Teaspoons sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Can tomato paste

Shells:

1 Box jumbo shells (Barilla is my favorite)
16 oz. Ricotta cheese
1 Large egg
1 Cup plain bread crumbs (Italian can be used and adds a little extra kick to the cheese)
2-4 Cups mozzarella
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons parsley
1 Teaspoon salt (I do this to taste, also, but 1 tsp is a good starting point)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Heat oil in a deep frying pan (We usually use the wok.  Saves on spillage, splatters and dishes.) over medium high heat and saute onions and garlic until golden brown.  A minute or so before they’re done, add oregano and sweet basil to release the flavor.  Stir in diced tomatoes and tomato sauce.

This is where I add about 1 1/2 tsp of sugar and 1 tsp of salt but not everyone likes their sauce like I like mine so start small and add to it to get the flavor you’re looking for.  Pepper is a rare edition.  Occasionally, if I’m looking for a bite, I’ll drop in a couple flakes of crushed red pepper, though.  And once in a blue moon, I’ll add two packets of Sazon in the orange box for a little extra oomph.

Once you’ve added the sugar and S&P, cover and let simmer on low heat 10-15 minutes, then stir in the tomato paste.  This, also, is to taste.  When I make it, I use the entire can.  I like my sauce nice and thick.  When Master makes it, He uses between half and three-quarters of the can.  I haven’t noticed a taste in flavor… just texture.  Cover and let simmer on low until you’re ready for it.

Boil 20-24 shells until they’re al dente.  Run under cold water until cold to touch.  You can actually do this at any time.  Cover them with plastic wrap and stick ’em in the fridge, though, if you do it before you start.

The rest of this is based on preference.  You don’t actually need Parmesan cheese or mozz for the inside of the shells but Master and I like them really cheesy.

In a large mixing bowl, combine ricotta, egg, bread crumbs, parsley, salt, Parmesan and 1-2 cups mozz.  I use two cups mozz.  Once it’s all mixed up, set the bowl aside and drizzle a little sauce into the bottom of the baking pan.  This step is important.  It keeps the shells from sticking to the bottom of the pan without having to use any extra oil.

Next, stuff spoonfuls (or fingerfuls if you’re me, which I am) of the cheese mixture into the shells and line them up however you like on the bottom of a 2-3 inch deep baking pan with the open side up.  Now pour the remaining sauce (As much or as little as you like. We use all of it.) over the shells.

Place in oven for fifteen minutes.  Top with remaining two cups of mozzarella and return to oven for fifteen minutes or until cheese is melted.  Some people like the cheese to be golden brown on the edges.  I like it better when it’s all melty and stretchy.  They say to let it stand for five minutes or so but we’re always so done with being tortured by the absolutely divoon aroma that we just dig right in.

The sauce is extremely versatile.  You can make it for just about any type of Italian dish and, with prep, it only takes about 40 minutes all told.  It also freezes well.  We haven’t tried canning any yet.  I’ll let you know how it works out when we do.

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  1. June 10th, 2009 at 19:35 | #1

    I do a similar thing with manicotti. It’s teh nom.

    I don’t make my own sauce though. I just use the jar stuff. But I can’t/haven’t yet found a sauce that I really really like. It’s frustrating.

    Curious though- with your sauce recipe, what do you think is the cost comparison for your homemade and a regular jar? Or, is it that you’ll get a larger amount with your recipe? Or is it just that the taste is so much better that it makes the cost worthwhile?

    And speaking of sauce- do you have a recipe for an alfredo sauce?

    I love that you are posting recipes. I do. More?

  2. June 10th, 2009 at 20:08 | #2

    @kaya Uhhh… let’s see. The amount of sauce you end up with is somewhere between the medium and large jar of Ragu and the medium jar of Ragu is like $3-5, right?

    I buy all my ingredients at Aldi, usually, so the cans are like $0.30/can give or take. A single onion probably would run me $0.50 and a head of garlic is probably about $0.20. So we’re at about $2 not including the spices you probably already have in your house.

    I guess we do save money when I make sauce. I didn’t think we did. But we discovered this sauce recipe (and, true to form, changed it to suit our needs) by accident when we were looking for a stuffed shells recipe and it came out so friggin awesome that we started using it for everything.

    It’s definitely better than store bought, though. Hands down. If nothing at all, you can taste the love. And that’s always really important to me when I cook. 🙂

    I have an Alfredo sauce somewhere but the one time I tried it I totally screwed it up so I have no idea how good it is. Master usually buys Ragu, which burns my ass, but making Alfredo sauce is expensive cause Parmesan cheese is expensive. Or, at least, so I’m told. I’ll have to check it out.

    Give me a day or so to locate that recipe if you still want it. I’ll put it up as soon as I can lay my hands on it.

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