RECIPE: Hearty Ricotta-Stuffed Shells

Isn’t that just beautiful!

Well, let’s get right into it then, why don’t we?! We need these things, plus a few others… like a wooden spoon, saute pan, boiling cauldron of water, a hot stove, etc… you know… the usual…

But first, let’s do a quick zoom on that beautiful garlic… oh how I love garlic!

OK, and on to the other ingredients… oh, and have I told you how much I love kosher salt?! (How are those chefs in NYC going to be able to hold back?! (what?!)

Next step? Dice up your onion, and slide it into the hot oil. I love the sound when the onion hits that hot pan… sizzle, sizzle…

OK, back to the garlic… oh how I love garlic!

But it gets even better when you smash open those cloves with the side of a knife! Go ahead, just take a whack!

And pretend like there’s a picture of diced up garlic { right here }… come on, use your imagination!

Next step, we add the meat to the sauted onions…

And let it brown, keep stirring…

And then comes the garlic… oh how I love garlic! (Tip: I usually wait to add the garlic in with the meat… if I had added it with the onion it would have run the risk of cooking a little too much and browning. And you don’t want brown garlic… it’s bitter, and no longer loveable. Ick… and we don’t want ick.)

So when the meat is done cooking, turn off the heat and let it cool. Because you’re going to mix it in with the cheese mixture… and you don’t want it to melt the cheeses.

But here’s a challenge… while you’re tending to the meat, you can multi-task! Add your cheese mixture together, starting with the eggs.

Then you add the seasonings… and start adding the cheeses… first start with the parmesan cheese…

And then add some more cheese… some mozzarella this time…

And while you’re at it… why don’t you add some more cheese… ricotta, this time…

Mix well…

Next? You guessed it… add the cooled meat mixture…

And repeat, mix well…

Now, on to watching a pot of water boil… after all, it IS possible.

You know the first few steps… water in pot, flame under pot… let the party begin!

But my favorite part of the whole process… throwing the kosher salt in just at the right moment… and a small hurricane takes place in the hot pot. Isn’t that fun?!

And then I always add some olive oil to the water when boiling pasta (someone once told me it helps the pasta from sticking together).

So, let it come to a full rolling boil… and we’re almost there…

Then we slide the jumbo shells into the hot pot… and set the timer, following the instructions on the package.

Approximately 9 mins later… we have reached “al dente”!

And it’s time to drain the salty water… move carefully… it’s hot!

Before you can stuff them, you’ll need to allow them to cool down. Flop them out on a cookie sheet … and just about the time you’re ready for them, they’ll be ready for you. (Aren’t they just gorgeous?!)

So spread out about cup of marinara sauce into your casserole, so it completely covers the bottom of the pan and into the corners…

And back to the ricotta mixture… it’s time to stuff those shells…

Using a rather large tablespoon, spoon it in to overflowing…

Yet again, isn’t this beautiful?! But we’re only just beginning…

Gently place your beautifully stuffed shell into the corner of the casserole and let the assembly line begin…

And top it off with some more sauce…

… and more cheese…

And then bake it… and then hide it from your husband otherwise THIS happens. (Half of the pan was gone before I could grab the camera.)

(Nah, I just forgot to take the picture again… I blame it on the garlic!)

Hearty Ricotta-Stuffed Shells
Adapted by Lori Tisdale

1 package jumbo shells
1 pound ricotta cheese
2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 eggs, slightly beaten
½ tablespoon dried parsley
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 pound ground hamburger
1 cup onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
24 ounces marinara sauce

Prepare shells according to package instructions, to al dente. Be careful not to overcook pasta.

In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until it ripples. Add diced onion to hot oil and sauté until translucent. Add diced garlic and ground hamburger and continue to cook until hamburger is browned completely. (I usually salt/pepper this as well, just enough to taste.) Set aside to cool slightly.

In a medium mixing bowl – combine eggs, salt/pepper, parsley and nutmeg. Mix well. Add ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese – mix well. Add the cooled hamburger to the cheese mixture – again, mix well.

Slightly cover bottom of a 9” x 11” x 13” pan with marinara sauce.

When pasta is done cooking, spread the shells out on a cookie sheet to cool (so they can be handled while stuffing). Immediately stuff the shells with a large tablespoon full of cheese/meat mixture.

In the casserole, arrange stuffed shells in a single layer. Pour remaining sauce over shells and top with remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minute or until sauce/cheese bubbles. Allow to cool about 10 minutes before serving.

So, I first made this at some point in high school. I remember learning to make this with my Mom’s help. She encouraged me to be creative… and I remember not wanting to use spinach… so instead used meat. I was rather proud of this at the ripe young age of maybe, 15? 16? Well, here’s the recipe I wrote up in 1990 … and I’ve taken it a step further and changed it just a bit more since then. But here’s the proof… see that teenage bubble writing?! Oh yeah… good times!

enjoy your time in the kitcen…


One thought on “RECIPE: Hearty Ricotta-Stuffed Shells

  1. Sounds delicious and looks beautiful! Adding kosher salt to the boiling water instead of regular sounds extravagant but the thought of having a hurricane in the pasta water might make it worthwhile.


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