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  • Chef G

The Shell Game

Delicious Stuffed Shells are the perfect easy, weeknight dinner. Jumbo pasta shells are stuffed with a smooth, creamy, cheesy filling flavored with herbs and baked to absolute perfection.


These shells are so versatile you can add anything to the stuffing mix such as spinach, Italian sausage, crab, even pumpkin. You can even freeze them into individual servings for a quick lunch or snack for the kids.


INGREDIENTS:

Shell Filling

One box Jumbo Shells

16 oz container of Ricotta Cheese

1 large egg per

8 oz Mozzarella Cheese (not shown)

1tsp dried Italian seasoning

1 tsp dyed oregano

1 tsp garlic powder


Marinara Sauce

2 small shallots diced

Three cloves of garlic diced

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 20 oz diced tomatoes

salt to taste

2 Tbsp Italian seasoning


EQUIPMENT (not shown)

8 quart stock pot

9"X13" casserole dish

1 large mixing bowl

A gallon zip lock bag

Immersion blender or food processor

Cutting board and sharp knife

Oven per-heated to 350 degrees.


PROCESS

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil and two teaspoons salt.


The Italian Debate on when to salt the water

We all know it is important to add salt to pasta water. In, Italy, everyone has an opinion on weather the salt should be added before or after the water boils.


Cold Water Salting...

Cold water salters use science to support their argument. They state that adding salt creates a solution that enables the water to reach a higher boiling point which in turn creates a higher temperature for optimal pasta cooking.


Hot Water Salting...

This seems to be the most common approach to salt management. Boiling salters argue that waiting demonstrates conscientious cooking. In the end the only difference is that water without salt boils faster, it saves time and energy.


Cook noodles for a few minutes less then instructions. Then cool in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. You want you noodles al dente for two reasons. One, they will be easier to handle while filling and two, they will continue to cook in the sauce later.



While you are boiling the noodles peel and chop your onions and garlic. They do not have to be even cuts because you will blend them at the end. Saute" In skillet saute with olive oil till tender.



Poor all the tomatoes, sauteed onions and garlic, and dried herbs into stockpot and simmer for 20 minuets. Blend all ingredients till smooth. (If using the immersion blender you do not need to let it cool but if you are using a food processor or blender for safety let cool till it stops steaming).


When to use dried herbs over fresh herbs,,,

Dried herbs are best added to dishes like sauce, stews, or soup that are going to simmer for a longer period of time. Dried herbs have concentrated flavor but need that time to re-hydrate and release their flavors, (if you open a jar of herbs and can't smell the herb aroma, it's time to replace it!)


Fresh herbs have a more subtle taste, and are best added to raw dishes such as salads or dishes with shorter cooking times. If you are going to add fresh herbs towards the end of the cooking so it maintains its flavor.



In a large mixing bowl combine your ricotta cheese, egg(s) and herbs. Again I used dried herbs because they will have about 20 minutes of cooking time in the sauce to release their flavors. (note I made multiple batches in this photo so it is one egg per container of ricotta cheese). Stir until well combined and silky smooth. Place in zip lock bag for piping.



Drain your shell noodles and let dry a bit. Cut the tip of your zip lock bag and pipe the mixture into each shell. In the casserole dish pore a layer of your marinara sauce and lay the shells open side up. (do not over fill so there will be extra sauce when serving) cover with mozzarella cheese and bake in a per heated 350 degree oven until cheese has melted. Server with a side salad and enjoy.


FREEZE FOR LATER


You can freeze the shells individual on a cookie sheet or pan then sore in freezer in a zip lock bag. For a quick meal in a oven safe dish add sauce, shells and cheese and bake till hot through and through.


Bon Appetit !











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