Monday, April 10, 2006

These shells have a great personality

Sausage-Stuffed Shells With Chunky Tomato Sauce
365 Ways To Cook Pasta Copyright 1988

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup lengthwise onion slices
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into thin strips I only had red peppers
1 garlic clove, minced
1 can (28 ounces) peeled Italian plum tomatoes, with juice I used diced tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper

12 large seashell shaped pasta I had 'jumbo' shells which aren't very large - I had many more than 12 of them

1 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
1 cup chopped mushrooms
¼ cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg beaten
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. For the sauce, heat the oil in a medium skillet; add onion and green and red peppers; sauté, stirring over medium heat until tender and peppers begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, sauté 1 minute. Add the tomatoes; stir, breaking up tomatoes with the side of a spoon. Simmer sauce uncovered, stirring occasionally, until reduced and slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Cook shells in plenty of boiling, salted water until barely tender, about 7 minutes. Lift from water with a slotted spoon and let stand in a bowl of cold water until ready to use.
3. For the filling, brown the sausage in a medium skillet; drain off the fat. Add the mushrooms and onion, cover and cook over low heat until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add parsley; season with salt and pepper. Combine the egg, ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan in a large bowl. Fold in the sausage mixture until blended.
4. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9x13-inch baking dish. Drain the shells and invert on paper towels to dry. Fill the shells, distributing the filling evenly. Arrange in rows in the baking dish. Spoon the sauce over the top. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4.

Some foods just aren't photogenic, no matter how good they might taste. I didn't even put any effort into making these look nice in the picture - I knew it was hopeless. Also, I was anxious to start eating.

The stuffed shells were very good but I wasn't crazy about the chunky sauce. Maybe had I used the proper tomatoes, it would have been better but the diced tomatoes I used seemed subpar to begin with. I would definitely make these again but without the chunky sauce, I would just use a basic jarred pasta sauce or other sauce from scratch. You could use anything - alfredo sauce, pesto sauce, or even just a bit of cheese (I might cook the pasta a little further along in that case). They're good enough on their own that they really don't need a heavy sauce. I might add a little garlic to the filling next time I make these. That might not be any time soon, since it's almost time to stop using the oven since the weather is getting warmer.

I couldn't find the large-sized shells I was looking for either. These were 'jumbo' and compared to small, medium and large shells that you might use for pasta salad, I suppose they were jumbo, but I thought there was a shell approximately the size of a manicotti out there. Is jumbo really the largest size? Does the size vary by brand? I didn't use every shell in the box for this recipe - I stuffed about 20 of them.

Woohoo, that was the last of the Italian sausage from the freezer. I had quite a bit of it at one point in time. I also used practically the last of the clearanced red bell peppers that were in the freezer. I used the very last of those in some quesadillas last night - I hope they have more on clearance soon. I refused to pay full price for green bell peppers which is just as well -they wouldn't have saved this sauce from mediocrity.

Question Of The Day: What are some of your favorite warm weather meals?


The Cookbook Junkie said...

I don't have any particular favorites but I know it's time to cut back on using the oven since our house doesn't have central air.

Anonymous said...

I love light pasta dishes and pretty much anything grilled.

Heather said...

Warm weather has me craving grilled food. Especially since the clean up is easy and I don't really have to cook as I turn grilling over to the hubby.