Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stuffed Shells

After suffering through a brutal winter packed with blizzards and Nor'easters, it was so nice to spend the first day of Spring in Dixie.  I wore short sleeves and sandals (!) and chased my daughter and nieces around the yard.

Back to reality.  The weekend ended when we returned home last night.  We were exhausted after the long drive, starving and rain-soaked.  What's for dinner?  Pasta sounds good.  I analyzed what I had on hand....jumbo stuffed shells!  Yum.

20 jumbo pasta shells (half of a 12 oz. box)

Meat Sauce:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
One-half of a 20.8 oz. package ground turkey breast
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 ozs. fresh mushrooms, chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons dry wine, whatever you have on hand
24 oz. jar tomato-basil pasta sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb seasoning
1 cup baby spinach leaves, chopped

Cheese Filling:
15 oz. whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded four-cheese Italian blend
1 large egg
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
Few grinds of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt


3 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the pot of water on for the pasta and start the sauce.

Heat the oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat.  Add the turkey breast and break it up with a wooden spoon.  When halfway cooked, add the onion, garlic, mushrooms, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Cook until the turkey is done and the onions are tender.  Deglaze the pan with the wine and stir in the pasta sauce.  Pour the stock into the empty jar, recap it and shake to get every bit of sauce.  Pour this into the pan.  Add Mrs. Dash and Italian seasoning.  Stir in the spinach and heat until wilted.

Cook the pasta shells according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again.

Stir together the ingredients for the cheese filling.  If you have fresh parsley on hand, add a good tablespoon.

Grease a gratin pan or a 13 x 9" pan.  Add three ladles of sauce to the bottom of the pan and spread it around.  Stuff a heaping tablespoon of filling into each shell.  Place them on top of the sauce.  Sprinkle with Parmesan.  Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes.

Enjoy the pasta with a salad, garlic toast and a glass of wine.

It took about an hour, but it really hit the spot!
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