Thursday, July 28, 2011

Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce

This recipe is one that I have used for a few different things. It was actually one of the first recipes I ever wrote to my own liking. I combined 3 different recipes to get it. It was kind of confusing. No wait......did I already list that? I need to double that? many people will this feed?.....holy crap what was I thinking??? Ya, that is pretty much how it went. When I first started out I got confused very easily. HA who am I kidding? I STILL get confused, it is just part of my charm.

I was really excited to dust this bad boy off. I have never made it for Kevin and it is a nice comfort food kind of home cooked meal. Lately I have been more about trying to cook healthier and eating more fish and chicken. Don't get me wrong, you can make this healthier, and I probably should have off the bat. But I wanted Kevin to taste the original before I started changing it up on him I guess.

This was also a recipe that I knew everyone would eat. My Dad is not a big fish lover, well actually he just flat out doesn't like fish. But remember I got him to TRY the Crabby Mac so at least he gives a bit or rather a bite once in a while. HE was very happy to see this meal. I mean Italian right? You know he was a happy camper!

Like I said, you can "healthify" this meal fairly easily. Substitute lean turkey for the ground beef and low fat or fat free ricotta. Also if you can find the shredded mozzarella in low fat that will help too.

Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce

1 pound lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), plus a bit for drizzling
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
Salt and cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 cups (2 16-ounce containers) ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley flakes, chopped
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 box, 12 ounces, Jumbo Shells
1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Generously salt the water and add the pasta. Cook just shy of al Dente (a couple minutes short of what the package says). Drain pasta and drizzle with olive oil to prevent the shells from sticking together.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the 2 tablespoons of EVOO, eyeball it. Add the ground beef and break it up with a wooden spoon into small bits, cook till brown. Add the onions, and garlic and cook until the onions begin to become translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir into meat, then add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat to a bubble then turn the heat down to simmer and cover the pan.

In a bowl mix the ricotta, Parmesan cheese, eggs, parsley, and salt to taste. Stir until mixed. 

Spoon half of the meat sauce into a 13 x 9 casserole dish, spread it evenly across the bottom. 1 at a time carefully spoon a tablespoon of the cheese mixture into a shell and place on top of the meat mixture in the casserole dish. 

Once the shells are filled top them with the remaining meat sauce, then sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese. 

Place shells in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 30-35 minutes until cheese is bubbly and browning. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4 to 6

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