Have You Heard the Secret to Summery Stuffed Shells?

Have You Heard the Secret to Summery Stuffed Shells?

Have You Heard the Secret to Summery Stuffed Shells?

 

Yes, I know it’s barbecue season, but one cannot live on charred meat products alone.

I love making this pasta recipe in the summer because, as pasta goes, it’s somewhat more summery than your typical heavy noodle and rich sauce dish.

What sets it apart is the tangy feta, the fresh chives, loads of fresh basil, the chunks of tomato, and the kick of crushed red pepper, which gives the whole dish a feisty, summer-come-hither attitude. I’ve even used our own homegrown tomatoes before, and they were extra delicious! What’s more, this is a filling way to sneak in a meatless meal to members of the carnivore club.

The smell is amazing when you’re cooking it. I’d wager that Spence asked me about 872 times if dinner was ready. After a while, I banished him from the kitchen. Then, when he started to shout queries from the living room about its state of doneness, I sent him outside. Had he shouted through the open window, his next stop would have been Guam.

You can’t rush a good thing, man. In order to build a deep, rich flavor, the sauce has to simmer for a good hour. Then come the shell stuffing follies, then the saucing process, followed closely by the baking.

By the time the timer was about to go off, even I was asking myself when it was going to be ready. Thankfully I didn’t send myself outside, because someone had to be in the kitchen to take the lovely end product out of the oven on the first beep.

And what an end product it was! Cheesy pasta goodness smothered in a fresh, spicy tomato sauce.

To. Die. For.

Even Spence was smiling.

 

Summery Stuffed Shells: Spence looks happy!

 

Here’s how you make it.

Recipe courtesy of: Epicurious.com

Ingredients:

Sauce

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 2 28-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes, chopped in processor with juices
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil

Filling

  • 2 15-ounce containers ricotta cheese
  • 14 ounces feta cheese, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 fresh chive bunches, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 12-ounce package jumbo pasta shells
  • Fresh basil sprigs (Buy the extra-large box. You’re going to need it!)

 

 

IMG_8300

 

Directions:

For sauce:
Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté 5 minutes.

 

Summery Stuffed Shells: more onions sautéing in a pot

 

Add garlic and sauté until onion is tender, about 5 minutes.

 

Summery Stuffed Shells: more onions sautéing in a pot joined by their minced garlic buddies

 

Add crushed red pepper and sauté 30 seconds. Add tomatoes. (Remember to chop them in the food processor first. If some don’t chop all the way, just squish them with your fingers – show them who’s boss.)

 

Summery Stuffed Shells: canned plum tomatoes ready to be chopped

 

Simmer until sauce is reduced to 5 cups, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

Summery Stuffed Shells: the luscious, summery tomato sauce - not too rich

 

Remove from heat and mix in basil. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)

Honestly, I ran out of the store-bought basil, so I checked my newly planted herb box on the deck, and, sure enough, there was plenty of basil to spare. Oh, but I love the homegrown goodness of it all! My herbs this year consist of: basil, chives, rosemary, chives, basil, basil, and cilantro.

Is my basil bias showing? Also, I think that the over-achieving rosemary is clamoring for a pot of its own.

 

Summery Stuffed Shells: fresh herbs on the deck - basil is boss

 

Summery Stuffed Shells: adding basil to the sauce

 

For filling:
Combine ricotta, 1 1/3 cups feta, 1/2 cup chopped basil and chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

Summery Stuffed Shells: adding basil to the filling (do you see a pattern here?)

 

Mix in eggs.

 

Summery Stuffed Shells: stirring in the eggs

 

Cook shells in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Rinse with cold water until cool. Drain thoroughly.

 

Summery Stuffed Shells: the shells are boiled just until tender, and then take a cold shower to stop the cooking process

 

Preheat oven 350°F. Spread 3/4 cup sauce over bottom of each of two 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dishes.

 

Summery Stuffed Shells: a cup of sauce on the bottom of the pan keeps the shells from sticking and burning

 

Summery Stuffed Shells: a cup of sauce on the bottom of the pan keeps the shells from sticking and burning

 

Fill 30 shells and divide between dishes. Check out my stuffing station below. BTW, I use a soup spoon to stuff the filling in the shells. (Please ignore the toe selfie.)

 

Summery Stuffed Shells: shell stuffing toe selfie station

 

Top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining feta. (I used parmesan instead.)  (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool and refrigerate.)

 

Summery Stuffed Shells: stuffed, cheesed, and ready to bake!

 

Bake shells until heated through, about 30 minutes. Garnish with basil sprigs.

And you know what? After all of those 872 agonizing questions about whether or not dinner was ready, I’m happy to report that, by the looks of his plate, even Spence thought this dish was worth the wait.

 

Summery Stuffed Shells: Now that was worth the wait! (BTW, the last word on his mug is "practice")

 

And here’s the printable version.

 

Stuffed Shells with Feta and Fresh Basil

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 28oz canned Itlaian plum tomatoes (two)
  • 1 cup fresh basic, chopped
  • 15oz containers of ricotta cheese (two)
  • 14oz feta
  • 1/2 cup chopped, fresh basil
  • 2 fresh chive bunches (chopped)
  • 2 eggs
  • 12oz jumbo pasta shells
  • fresh basil sprigs

Directions

Step 1
For sauce:
Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Add crushed red pepper and sauté 30 seconds. Add tomatoes. Simmer until sauce is reduced to 5 cups, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and mix in basil. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)
Step 2
For filling:
Combine ricotta, 1 1/3 cups feta, 1/2 cup chopped basil and chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in eggs.

Cook shells in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Rinse with cold water until cool. Drain thoroughly.

Preheat oven 350°F. Spread 3/4 cup sauce over bottom of each of two 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dishes. Fill 30 shells and divide between dishes. Top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining feta. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool and refrigerate.) Bake shells until heated through, about 30 minutes. Garnish with basil sprigs.

 

Summery Stuffed Shells

Written by Becky


Website:

2 Comments
  • Mary Lou Sandvik says:

    Becky, could you hear me guffawing this morning while reading this blog? You are such a comic and such a great cook! I’ve decided to take all the credit for your brains and charm. Your poor dad is not around any longer to dispute this so I’m safe here! Keep on keeping on! And next time we’re are at your place for a regular meal, how about serving us this delectable meal? Say yes please. YLM

    • Becky says:

      Yes, actually, I could hear your guffaws from miles away, and was about to ask you to turn it down a notch.

      Anytime you want this meal, it’s yours!


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


Post Comment

About Me:

Hi! My name is Becky. I’m a mom, a wife, a friend, a writer, and a compulsive thinker. Don't invite me to a spa or to shop the day away, but rather, make me laugh, engage me in interesting conversation, play a game with me, or give me a cappuccino and homemade vanilla bean flan and I’m yours ‘til the cows come home.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Your email address will not be shared with anyone else.