I have seen my mom make stuffed shells so many times I have lost count. Last Christmas, I even had the chance to help her make them, but we did it the night before and had a lot of time to spend on the preparation. My mom also had extra sauce in the freezer in case we didn’t have enough. Well…none of this was true for my first experience making stuffed shells and it turned out to be a true Kitchen Adventure! The experience of making these shells was one of the reasons I started writing this blog. I needed a challenge. I was feeling complacent and wanted to find something I was passionate about, enjoyed, and could share with others.
I didn’t realize how difficult it was to prepare stuffed shells for 10 people in about 2 and a half hours. I am so lucky I had my friend Gina. Yes, I have a sister Gina too! Italians do things in multiples…the names are always duplicated, people never replicated. I also have an Aunt Gina, two cousins named Concetta and an Aunt Concetta, more than a few Michael’s, Jacks, and Antonia’s, as well as many more duplicate names, so sorry if I ever confuse anyone. This is just another example of “My Big Fat Italian Life.”
Anyways, my friend Gina was my savior that day. If it wasn’t for her we would not have been able to eat dinner until midnight. As I made the sauce and the meat filling, she made the cheese filling and we both stuffed the shells once they were cooked. I knew right away, before I even put the shells in the oven that they were going to be dry. I didn’t make enough sauce and I didn’t have any extra sitting around my apartment. Lesson learned.
32 oz Ricotta cheese
Parmesan ( a lot)
5 lbs ground beef
3 small onions
5 hardboiled eggs
2 bags of frozen, chopped spinach
Salt & Pepper
Hardboil your 5 eggs and set aside. Cook spinach according to package, drain completely (will need to squeeze out as much water as possible) and set aside. Dice the 3 small onions (I put them in the mixer to make them extremely thin, but this is not necessary). Brown your meat with the onions. Add salt & pepper to taste. Once cooked, combine all ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Scramble the eggs and add parsley and Parmesan. Add ricotta and mix well. Make sure mixture is thick. Set aside.
Boil 3 lbs of jumbo shells in water. Drain and rinse. Usually, you should not rinse your pasta, but since you are baking the shells. you want to remove some of the starch. Rinse with cold water.
In baking dishes, cover the bottom of each dish with sauce. Stuff the shells in one pan with your meat mixture and the other with your cheese (you will probably need 4 baking dishes, or you can freeze what you don’t use). Once your dish is filled with stuffed shells, cover again with sauce (don’t be shy). You can top with more parmesan or shredded mozzarella.
Cover with aluminum foil and back for 30 minutes at 350°. After 30 minutes, remove the aluminum foil and back another 30 minutes. Remove, let cool for a few minutes, serve and enjoy!
See quick sauce recipe and quadruple it
**Make sure you have enough sauce to cover approximately 3 baking pans on the bottom and have enough to cover the top of the shells with. You will need about 3 large cans of Hunt Sauce (cl).
I forgot to take a picture of the cheese filled shells, but here is the finished product. Way more dry than I would have liked, but they were still good. I made three trays and two and a half were gone at the end of the night. My neighbor and his girlfriend stopped by to help out, but we did some major damage even though there was a lack of sauce.
The next night I decided to make a cream sauce (I had leftover cream in the fridge) and added it to the shells. To say they were better once more sauce was added would be the biggest understatement of the year. I was glad I got to experience them correctly and I even shared a few with some friends at work who enjoyed them with the white sauce!
Unfortunately, this is the last meal I will ever make in my wonderful apartment I have shared with three of my best friends. I can’t believe it has been a year since I packed up my Dad’s car and moved to this wonderful city of Chicago. This past year literally went in a blink of an eye. I guess when your life is throwing you curve balls left and right, you are on a non stop roller coaster of ups, downs, twists, and turns – life just happens, and it is thrilling. Even though I am moving next week, hopefully I can still have my Sunday dinners with my friends!
Stay tuned for the first cooking adventure in my new apartment!
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