How To Bake The Best Italian Stuffed Shells


(source: pip and ebby)

When it's Italian night at my house, there's a good chance we have stuffed shells made. It's the easiest Italian dish to make next to plain ol' spaghetti and meatballs with marinara sauce. We usually go a bit overboard with trays and trays made. Because we love it that much. Even though we make a lot, the good part is there's always plenty for everyone to enjoy and seconds! That's the Italian in me, making sure there's enough for everyone. Anyone who has tried these stuffed shells without a doubt come back asking for more. We definitely add our own little spin to it. That's probably why all our friends love it so much.

What sets these stuffed shells apart from the others is our secret blush sauce (most commonly known as a vodka sauce). There's no vodka added in here actually. But...hey, there's no one telling you that you can't add a little yourself. I know for a fact that the alcohol once added into the sauce will burn off while cooking. But even with the vodka burned off, it still gives the sauce a special kind of consistency I think. My argument is that it just blends all the ingredients together really nicely. All the more reason to buy some vodka!

Vodka or no vodka, this Italian dish is truly one of my favorites. I've been brainstorming how I can pull off this recipe using mini shells. How cute (and amazingly delicious) would that be?

And let me just say, I love anything homemade. Homemade just tastes better. And to be honest, it's healthier, too. On top of that, anything homemade is likely to have much lower contents of sodium. To all my health nuts, that's a major thumbs up, right!? Clearly I'm trying to justify why I just let myself eat 10 shells for dinner tonight. Hello gym tomorrow. But don't worry, it's worth it.

WHAT YOU NEED:

For the stuffing:

- Equal parts mozzarella cheese and ricotta cheese (as much as you want)

- 1 egg

Pasta:

- 1 bag of large shells

- cooking spray

Side:

- vegetable of choice (I made spinach. I like to cut mine up and combine with the shells).

For the sauce:

- 3 to 4 cans of peeled plum tomatoes

- 1/2 a yellow onion

- 5 garlic cloves

- 5 tbsp EVOO

- 2-3 cubes or packs of chicken bouillon

- 1-2 tbsp of heavy cream

- salt and pepper to taste

Garnish:

- Fresh basil leaves (and for taste)

- Parmesan cheese

INSTRUCTIONS:

1). Prepare your sauce. In a large pot, add olive oil, grated garlic and chopped onion. Let it simmer. Add tomatoes to the pot. Stir and mash until a smooth sauce forms. I sometimes add the tomatoes in a blender beforehand to quicken up the prep time.

2). Add chicken or vegetable bouillon to the sauce. Keep stirring. Turn on low heat. Add heavy cream and basil for taste.

3). Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat some baking dishes with cooking spray and set aside.

4). Boil large pot of water to boil, add pasta and cook just before al dente. Then drain.

5). In a separate medium bowl combine ricotta cheese and chopped mozzarella cheese. Add egg and mix well. This is your chunky cheese stuffing for the shells. Add a little salt and pepper as you wish.

6). Once shells have cooled. Scoop about a tablespoon of the cheese mix and insert into each shell. Place the stuffed shells cheese side up into the prepared baking dishes.

7). Evenly pour the blush sauce on top of the shells

8). Bake in the oven for 50 minutes.

9). Top with more sauce and add parmesan cheese.

10). Serve warm with a vegetable side and/or some garlic bread.

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