Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Stuffed Shells

I have already mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I have a love for Italian food. One of my recent favorite Italian meals to make is stuffed shells. To me, it ranks right up there with homemade lasagna. All that baked, cheesy goodness with pasta and a robust sauce, mamma mia, count me in!

Up until this week I've always made stuffed shells exactly the same, based off a recipe from Giada DeLaurentis. Something got into me this week, however. On Sunday night as I was surveying my fridge to see what veggies remained from my produce share, I saw that I still had a bunch of rainbow chard in the crisper drawer. Last time I made Sauteed Rainbow Chard, and while I did love the results, I wanted to do something different with the greens this time around. Then it hit me, why don't I add it to the stuffed shells?

The results were revolutionary. My husband, who was on record as being a huge fan of the original recipe for stuffed shells, informed me last night that from now on chard has to be included. The earthiness of the chard provides a welcome flavor and texture contrast to the artichokes and ground turkey in the filling. You could also substitute spinach for the chard and yield similar results.

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Stuffed Shells
1 box jumbo pasta shells
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 8 ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1 bunch rainbow or swiss chard, chopped
1 15 ounce container ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs lightly beaten
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons italian parsley, chopped
2 jars arrabiata sauce (I used Mario Batali)
shredded mozzarella cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, add the jumbo pasta shells and cook for 5 minutes. you want the pasta to be just under al dente since they will continue to cook in the oven. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. While the oil is heating, chop the onion and the garlic.
Add to the hot oil and saute until the onions are tender, about 3 minutes.
Add the ground turkey, salt and pepper and cook until the meat is cooked through.
While the meat is cooking, cut the chard leaves off the stems and chop.
Add to the skillet and cook until wilted, about 3-5 minutes.
Take the thawed artichoke hearts and roughly chop.
Add to the skillet and cook until heated through.
Remove from heat, place in a large bowl and let cool. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Once the meat has cooled, add the basil, parsley, ricotta, parmesan and eggs.
Stir until thoroughly mixed.
At this point you can do one of two things. I always cook one 8x8 baking dish of shells the night I cook and make one 8x8 aluminum pan to freeze for later. If you don't want to freeze half, just use a 9x11 pan instead of the 8x8 pan pictured below. Spoon a thin layer of arrabiata sauce on the bottom of the pan.

Take one of the shells and spoon the meat filling inside until it is full.
Add to the sauced pan.
Repeat, placing the shells in rows until the pan is full.
Cover completely with arrabiata sauce.
Top with shredded mozzarella cheese.
Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
While the pasta is in the oven, assemble the pan to freeze using the same process described above if you choose to freeze half.
Cover with glad press and seal wrap and place in a gallon size ziploc bag.
Place in the freezer for up to a month. When it's time to cook the frozen meal, heat the oven to 400 degrees and cook for 40 minutes.
When the pasta is done the cheese should be browned and bubbling.
Scoop out the shells and serve.

Source: adapted from Giada DeLaurentes

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