Cheesy Stuffed Shells

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Recently, we had an incredible family dinner at our place. My inlaws were in town and I really wanted to impress them with a comforting, classic Italian meal. Jason has been begging me to come up with a stuffed shell recipe since we got married, so I thought this was the perfect time to create this recipe. My in-laws loved this meal so much, they continued to rave about it the next day.

The key to a perfect Italian dish is the fresh cheese. Don’t get me wrong, we love buying those packages of already shredded cheese. But for this recipe, I would recommend going to your cheese counter to buy the freshest possible cheese. If you have a food processor, it takes almost no time to shred it yourself (and it saves you a ton of money).

I decided to also make my own ricotta as well. Be your own chef and judge how much time you want to dedicate to this dish. If time is not on your side (or you’re just not interested), then save a step and buy the ricotta. If you’re like me and want to learn how to make it, directions will be at the bottom of the page.

Ingredients:Stuffed Shells

  • 24 uncooked jumbo pasta shells
  • 26 oz jar chunky tomato sauce – choose your favorite flavor
  • small can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup parmesan, freshly grated
  • ¼ lb provolone cheese, shredded
  • 8 oz whole milk mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 egg
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Directions:Stuffed Shells

Preheat oven to 350. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season liberally with salt and add shells. Cook until shells are al dente. Gently transfer cooked shells to an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Drain shells on a paper towel to dry while sauce and filling come together.

Over medium heat, add a drizzle of olive to a medium pot. Add shallots and season with salt and pepper. Saute until shallots are tender and add in chunky tomato sauce and whole peeled tomatoes. Stir to combine and break up the tomatoes with a fork. Allow to come to a simmer and low heat.

In a medium bowl combine the ricotta, ½ the shredded provolone, ½ the shredded mozzarella, egg, and Italian seasoning. Stir until well blended.

Pour the ricotta cheese mixture into a resealable bag. Cut 1 corner of the bag and use it to fill each pasta shell with cheese mixture.

Stuffed ShellsPour 1 ladle of the sauce into the bottom of a dutch oven or baking dish. Add ½ of the cheese stuffed shell to the dish, side by side. Ladle sauce over top and sprinkle on ½ of the remaining shredded cheese. Place rest of the stuffed shells on top, add remaining sauce mixture and top with remaining shredded cheese.

Cover and bake 35-20 minutes. Remove cover sprinkle parmesan all over. Continue to bake uncovered until the cheese starts to bubble and brown.

Serve family-style with my awesome garlic bread and a simple salad.

 

Homemade Ricotta

  • 8 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • cheesecloth

Directions:

Line a wired mesh hand strainer with cheesecloth. If you can’t find it or forgot it you can also use a damp paper towel. Just make sure to ring it out well. Place strainer over a bowl.

In a large, heavy pot over moderate heat, bring the milk, cream and salt to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Add the lemon juice, lower heat and continue stirring until curds form – about 3 minutes.

Pour the mixture into the lined sieve and allow to drain for about 10 minutes. Use the ricotta left on top of the cheese cloth and discard the liquid. Chill until ready to use.

 

 

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