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Stuffed shells

Stuffed Shells A Comforting Italian Classic

Stuffed shells are a beloved Italian-American classic, bringing together tender pasta shells filled with a flavorful mixture of ricotta cheese, herbs, and spinach, all smothered in rich marinara sauce and topped with melted mozzarella. This dish embodies the essence of comfort food with its creamy and cheesy interior encased in pasta shells and bathed in a savory tomato sauce.

As you embark on making stuffed shells, envision the comforting aroma of bubbling marinara sauce, the anticipation of digging into creamy and cheesy pasta, and the joy of sharing this timeless Italian favorite with loved ones. Visualize the smiles on their faces as they savor each bite. Let’s dive into the world of comforting Italian cuisine and create this irresistible dish together.

Ingredients:

A Collection of Ingredients for Stuffed Shells

For the Stuffed Shells:

  • 24 large pasta shells
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup chopped spinach, cooked and squeezed dry
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the Sauce:

  • 1 (24-ounce) jar marinara sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional, for heat)

For Topping:

  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh basil or parsley, chopped, for garnish (optional)

Instructions:

Create Stuffed Shells Bliss

1. Preparing the Shells:

  • Cook the pasta shells according to the package instructions until they are al dente. Drain them and set aside.

2. Making the Filling:

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, shredded mozzarella cheese, grated Parmesan cheese, egg, chopped spinach, minced garlic, dried oregano, dried basil, salt, and black pepper. Mix until well combined.

3. Stuffing the Shells:

  • Using a spoon, carefully stuff each cooked pasta shell with the ricotta mixture. Fill each shell generously but not to the point of overflowing.

4. Preparing the Sauce:

  • In a separate saucepan, heat the marinara sauce over medium heat. Stir in the dried Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes (if using). Let the sauce simmer for a few minutes.

5. Layering and Baking:

  • Spread a thin layer of the marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish. Arrange the stuffed shells in the dish. Pour the remaining marinara sauce over the shells, covering them generously. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese.

6. Baking to Perfection:

  • Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated oven at 375°F (190°C) for 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly.

7. Garnishing (Optional):

  • If desired, garnish the stuffed shells with chopped fresh basil or parsley for a burst of color and freshness.

8. Serving and Enjoyment:

  • Serve your stuffed shells hot and savor the creamy and cheesy Italian goodness.

Tips and Variations:

Elevate Your Stuffed Shells Experience

Tips:

  • To prevent the pasta shells from sticking together, drizzle them with a bit of olive oil after draining and gently toss them.

Variations:

  • Meat Version: You can add cooked ground beef or sausage to the ricotta mixture for a meaty twist.

Pairing Suggestion: Stuffed shells pair wonderfully with a crisp green salad and garlic bread for a complete Italian meal.

Storage and Enjoyment: Store any leftover stuffed shells in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Reheat them in the oven or microwave for a delicious leftover meal.

Cook’s Note: Stuffed shells are a celebration of cheesy Italian comfort food. As you savor each bite, take pride in the way you’ve transformed simple ingredients into a creamy and satisfying dish. This meal isn’t just about taste; it’s a tribute to the joy of Italian cuisine. Share it with friends and family, embrace the creamy and cheesy goodness, and enjoy the experience of making and enjoying a timeless Italian favorite.

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