I'm Stuffed!

I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate. --Julia Child

I was hungry for stuffed shells the other night and had some ricotta and a bit of farm-made goat cheese in the fridge just waiting to be used up.  It was really easy and ready to eat in about half an hour.  I used a medium-sized dish for this, as Chris and I would never finish a lasagna pan portion, so the recipe below should be tweaked for more than 4 people. 

Gourmess Stuffed Shells
1 12-16 oz. box large pasta shells
1 15 oz tub whole milk ricotta
1 6.5 oz tub Alouette Garlic & Herbs spread
3 TBS Goat Cheese
2 Tsp each of dried oregano, parsley, basil, and thyme or Italian Seasoning mix
2 Tsp Garlic powder
1 TBS salt
1-2 twists of fresh ground pepper
1 25 oz. jar high-end sauce w/meat {I was feeling lazy so I used Rao's Italian Sausage and Mushroom Sauce, but if you have more than 30 minutes, make your own sauce (sauté peeled, diced tomatoes with garlic and onion in olive oil, season well and add a bit of vegetable broth, water or wine, and then cook down into sauce) and at the end, add in some browned ground turkey sausage, sliced/diced mushrooms, peppers, etc.}
10-12 oz shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • Bring pot of salted water to a boil, add the shells and cook until no longer chewy,  Pour into strainer and drain/set aside to cool.
  • In a medium bowl, take the ricotta, cheese spread, goat cheese, and mix with a wooded spoon until fluffy. Add the herbs, garlic powder, pepper, and salt/pepper and mix until incorporated. Taste to make sure flavor is balanced. 
  • Take about 1/2 cup of sauce and spread it on the bottom of your baking dish (this keeps the shells from sticking to the bottom)
  • Take the shells and lay them on a cookie sheet, separating them so they don't stick together.  One by one, fill with the filling (I use a baby/tiny serving spoon) and place in the dish horizontally. You should get about two rows of about 8 shells each, depending on how full you fill them and how wide your dish is. (You can push them together to fit more, but don't crowd the pan too much). There will be a bit of room in the center, so add another row of shells, going vertically, this time. Cover with a bit of cheese and put more stuffed shells around the outside border. You may have a few shells leftover --go ahead and eat them now. :) 

  • Top with the sauce and the rest of the shredded cheese and sprinkle more herbs on top.  Then, place in a 375 degree oven until heated through and the cheese is all melty and a bit brown on the edges.

  • Serve with a green salad with black olives and tomatoes, garlic bread and an Italian wine.
  • Tip: If you like your shells really saucy, put some warmed, extra sauce in a gravy boat and place on the table so you can add as little or as much as you want! (You may need to buy two jars.)
Dig in!

Stuffed Baby Pepper Poppers
I also had about two dozen baby sweet peppers, so I thought I'd take a healthier twist on some of my favorite bar food, stuffed poppers. (I said healthier, not healthy.)  

To make them, I cut off the stem and a wee bit of the top of the pepper and then scooped out the seeds with a small spoon.  (A grapefruit spoon works really well.) I thought about cutting a bit of the bottoms too, so they would stand upright, but the peppers were so small that I didn't want to waste any part of them.  Then, I couldn't decide what kind of filling I wanted to use, but I knew I wanted it creamy and cheesy and a bit spicy, so I decided on two different ones.  I filled the first half with a mixture of shredded pepper jack cheese, a couple dashes of hot pepper sauce and about a cup of jalapeno queso dip--and the other half with a mixture of goat cheese, red pepper salsa, and sweet and spicy red pepper cheese spread (I am totally in love with Alouette spreads lately).  I put each mixture in a small bowl and then spooned into the peppers. I placed the peppers in loose rows in a lightly oiled baking dish.  Then, I baked the peppers in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, then turned the broiler on them for about 5 minutes more until the cheese was hot and gooey and the peppers were a bit soft.  I ate about half the dish waiting for Chris to get home. (Yum.)