Monday, April 6, 2009

Stuffed shells and a prayer


I sent this post earlier this morning, but I'm resending it now to ask for prayers and help for the people in Abruzzo affected by the terrible earthquake which has already killed about 100 people and left thousands more homeless.

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You know how some recipes stir memories of an event or a person? This one reminds me of my mom, who frequently cooked up large casseroles of these for an impromptu family dinner. She added ground meat to the ricotta stuffing, but I've added spinach instead. If you choose to make the sauce meatless, you've got a great vegetarian meal.

I hadn't made these in years, but since I had some leftover ricotta in the fridge and some jars of tomato sauce with ground beef that my brother Frank had made, I thought, why not make up a batch of stuffed shells and have an impromptu dinner with friends?

We frequently spend holidays with our friends Jan and Dave but this Easter we each have different plans. So who better to invite for a casual meal than friends we've known for more than three decades and haven't seen in a while? Fortunately, they were available on a last minute whim and came over Saturday night for an informal dinner. No fussing involved - no appetizers, no good china, no fancy silver. Just a simple meal of stuffed shells and salad and a bottle of good wine to share with friends who are like family. Oh, we also ate a deeeelicious apple and pear galette that Jan brought over. I'll be posting the recipe for that as soon as she gets it to me.

The food was great, but more important was the chance to be with long-time friends and our kids too, who were home for the weekend. Why not give it a try? Call some friends you haven't seen in a long time and invite them to come share a meal with you - maybe even these stuffed shells. If you've got some tomato sauce stored in the freezer, so much the better. The recipe goes together pretty quickly in that case.

Here's what it looks like before it goes in the oven. This recipe makes even more than is shown in the photo, but I kept about a dozen or so and froze them for another meal.
Here's what it looks like when it comes out of the oven:Stuffed Shells

17.6 ounce package shells (There were 53 shells in the package, but a few of them broke while cooking)

2 eggs
2 lbs. ricotta
1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese
3 cups shredded mozzarella
1 box chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
2 T. minced parsley
salt, pepper
a grating of fresh nutmeg

tomato sauce to cover
(here's my recipe.)

I used a cellophane package of shells I bought at the supermarket weighing 17.6 ounces and this amount of filling was perfect for that size package. Most packaged shells come in a cardboard box and weigh less than this, so if you can't find the larger size cellophane package, make less of the filling and use one of the cardboard boxes, or use 1 1/2 boxes of the shells and the full amount of the filling.

Cook the shells in boiling water, but under cook them slightly, since they'll also bake in the oven. Drain the shells after boiling. Put them into a pot of cool water, since the ones you're not working on are likely to stick together if they're sitting in a colander.
Drain about a dozen at time in a colander and stuff, then repeat with the remaining shells.

Stuffing: Beat the eggs lightly. Add the cheeses and the remaining ingredients, except the tomato sauce. Stuff the shells gently with the mixture. Place some tomato sauce in a heat-proof casserole and lay stuffed shells into it. Pour more sauce on and around the shells. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until heated through and bubbly.

15 comments:

Stacey Snacks said...

I won't show these pics to Henry, or he will ask me to make him stuffed shells (he loves them w/ meat sauce!).
I haven't made these in yrs, and may have to do so. I love the spinach addition!

Spryte said...

Those look so good!!!

Bridgett said...

Comfort food at its best! Looks wonderful.

Cindystar said...

Hi Linda,
I asked as well in my BBD's Announcement a little thought for Abruzzo and his people, it's just a drop in the ocean, but many drops make a big ocean!
Baci!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

We love stuffed shells too, Linda! Nice and easy and so delicious. The very best friends are the "no fuss' kind thta feel like family.

Such a tragedy in Abbruzzo! Saying prayers for those lost lives and lost homes.

Maryann said...

You know, Linda, I haven't made these in ages either! I don't know why! I really love them.

lisetta said...

I haven't made stuffed shells in ages either! I usually do them with a red sauce as you do, but also like making them with some besciamella.

natalia said...

Ciao Linda !! Che bel piatto ! Posso passare a cena ? Thanks for visiting !

Chef Chuck said...

Good work! Yumm, I would love to have a few! :)

Proud Italian Cook said...

So sad Linda, I was watching CNN this morning, my heart goes out to all of them.

I love serving stuffed shells for a party, individual pieces and easy to eat! Yours looks fantastic
Linda.
Hugs,
Marie

Cherrye at My Bella Vita said...

Ok, I change my mind. I'll still go to your place for dinner. ;-)

You are right, this is a good time for us to reconnect with friends and be thankful for who and what we have in our lives.

Foodie with Little Thyme! said...

OH....I love stuffed shells!

Elra said...

My heart goes for those who lost everything, I feel saddened by the news this morning, that the number of people lost their life increase to 200. I am sending my prayer to all people of Abrusso!

Your stuffed shells is perfect Linda! I am sure this will cheers everyone.
Cheers,
elra

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Fantastic! that's a dish I have to try making very soon!

Cheers,

Rosa

Juliana said...

Your stuffed shells look so good...and I love your pictures...