Saturday, May 18, 2013

Stuffed Baked Pasta Shells with Easy Homemade Marinara

It all started with a package of big pasta shells. 
I couldn't resist, I had always looked at them but figured it would be too fussy to make.
I was wrong.

About two days before I made this dish, I was rummaging around in my pantry when my package of pasta shells slid out and crashed about 5 feet to my stone floor.  Crap!  I busted up about a 1/3 of the noodles.  Darn my rummaging around anyway!!!  Oh well, I was able to  salvage quite a few of them, and used all the broken bits later on too.

Though this meal is all about the pasta, it really is the the terrific sauce that makes it.  I am sure you have tried a simple, sublime tasting red sauce and wondered how to make it so delicious at home.  
Remember the KISS principle?  Keep It Simple Stupid.
The funny part for me is that I have always over complicated my sauces by overdoing it.  Too many additions, too many spices, too much other stuff.  My recommendation?  Keep it simple.  Either that, or just buy a pre-made sauce.  That works too.

This sauce recipes makes about double that you need for this dish, but it is nice to have leftover yummy sauce for other things.  I stashed my extra sauce in the freezer for later, but, by all means, feel free to halve the recipe if you don't want extras..

One more spot of advice, use more sauce under and over the shells than you think, I felt I skimped a bit on the sauce which was a shame as I had so much.  I was worried of drowning those cute little stuffed shells.  So slather on the sauce and don't skimp on the cheese either!

Serves about 8

Sauce Ingredients:
1/2 onion, minced or 2-3 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1Tbsp basil
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cans crushed tomatoes
Red pepper flakes, optional
Salt and Pepper, to taste

1 12oz pkg of large pasta shells, cooked for about 11-12 minutes (very al dente)
1 15 oz ricotta cheese
1 egg
1-2 Tbsp basil, minced
1 Tbsp chives, or parsley,minced
1 tsp salt

1-2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

In a large pot, get 4-5 quarts of salted water on to boil.
When boiling, add the noodles and cook about 12 minutes, stirring so they don't stick.
Drain and cool.
These will be somewhat hard still, but that makes it easier to fill them later on.  They will continue cooking in the oven.

To make the sauce,  mince the onions, garlic and any fresh herbs you are using.  I find that a food processor makes short work of that!

Saute them over medium high heat in a couple tablespoons of olive oil for about 5-7 minutes, until they start to soften and turn translucent.  Add the cans of crushed tomatoes and the red pepper flakes (if using).  Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  You may need to keep a lid on the sauce, and it tends to splatter as it is rather thick.  If wanted you can add a little water to keep it at the consistency you want. 

 In a small bowl (or the food processor from step 1 above...) Mix the ricotta, the egg, fresh pepper and minced herbs.  Add the salt.  I tasted it to make sure I liked the taste.... but some people may not eat raw egg.  Heck, I eat cookie dough- - same thing, right?  You could add some of the cheese to the filling, but I didn't think about it until later.

Take a cooled pasta shell and fill with the filling.  I used a small cookie scoop, it worked perfectly. Fill each shell and place in a baking dish.

You could make one large pan, like a 9x13, but I elected to use a bunch of small dishes for individual servings.  Oil up each pan and add a thin layer of red sauce ( I didn't do this, but I will do it next time...). Top with more sauce and grated cheese.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes until the cheese and sauce are bubbly and melted.

Remember those broken bits of pasta?  No matter, I just layered the broken bits, topped with the ricotta mixture, sauce and then cheese.  

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.  Watch the smaller dishes, they may be done quicker.

No comments:

Post a Comment