Some times, I like to really doll up a meal to make it something delicate and decadent. Other times, I just want something hearty and quick. This is one of those times: lasagna’s less popular, ugly step-brother: stuffed shells.
This is nothing terribly fancy–pasta, tomatoes, sausage, parmesan, and ricotta–but hey, it’s good. For no good reason at all, I was just in the mood for shells instead of lasagna, even though really, they would both be largely similar. I don’t have pasta terribly often, and when I do, its usually some quick linguine kind of dish, so having a filled pasta just seemed like a nice change. Plus, it can be hard to write a ton of posts ahead of time before you go on vacation so bear with me! 😉 (this is the last one–I’ll be back and cooking fresh soon! Think of this as “leftovers”)
- 1 box of shell pasta
- ~ 1-1.5 lbs sausage (I use “Hot Italian” flavored)
- ~1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/4-1/2 freshly grated parmesan (as in parmigiano reggiano) cheese
- 1 shallot
- 6 cloves garlic
- handful of fresh basil leaves
- tomato sauce (I used 1 can of fire-roasted tomatoes for smokiness and laziness)
- Optional: a few serrano peppers (or some other small, hot pepper)
Before you do anything, get two pots of water boiling: one to cook the sausage and another to cook the pasta. The sausage took me somewhere around 15 minutes of boiling to cook, but that really depends on the size of your sausage (lol, I’m mature). If you’re not sure, check the directions that came with the sausage. The pasta should take somewhere around 10 minutes in the water (and of course you know to stir periodically so it doesn’t stick together).
Gather the vegetables. The peppers aren’t necessary–I just like to always have a little bit of heat whenever I have sausage (plus, why do they call it “Hot Italian” if it never seems to have any heat?) and I wanted to make sure I used them before they went bad on the plant (my serrano and basil have been surprisingly productive all year). I took the lazy route and threw all of these guys in the food processor for a really quick and fine dice. I then briefly sautéed them in olive oil just to soften up a little and took them off the heat.
I put the sautéed veggies back in the food processor along with the parmesan and fresh basil, and pulsed until it was finely ground up. Lastly, this was mixed well with some ricotta cheese (if you added this earlier, everything would have been a lot harder to mix). Set this cheese mixture aside in a bowl.
By now, the sausage is done cooking, so if you need to remove the casings, go ahead and do that before you grind it up finely (again, in the food processor. You can tell its a quick and easy meal when you get this much mileage out of the food processor 😉 ). Set this aside in a bowl.
I’ll also assume your pasta is done cooking and any water has been drained off.
Take this time to preheat your oven to 375?F. Now you’re up to the fun, manual labor part of the process. Take each shell, stuff half-way full with some sausage, and then seal it in by stuffing it almost full with some of the cheese mixture. Line these up in a pan. By the time you get near the end of your pasta, you’ll be doing a pretty sloppy fill job. 😉
Once every shell is filled and ready to go, the final step is to add the sauce. Pour it on and if any shells are stacked or crowded, move things a bit to ensure you sauce everything (you don’t want to only sauce the top and then have “plain” pasta on the bottom).
Transfer this to the oven for about 30 minutes to get everything hot and bubbly. Once ready, give it a few minutes to cool a bit, scoop out a modest portion, and enjoy!