Any time is a good time for pasta …

THOSE WHO KNOW ME AND MY COOKING STYLE know that I am a sucker for any good dish involving pasta. I’m the Irish/German girl who cooks and eats macaroni. It is probably the most versatile ingredient in my culinary repertoire, and I’m always looking for different ways to make it. I love to take basic pasta dishes and jazz them up with my own touches. I have always loved stuffed shells, and I recently made a recipe for them that totally blew my mind. But nowadays it’s not just about what I like, but what my family will eat as well, and my husband went gaga for these shells too. They are so easy, and as everyone knows that’s another of my criteria that must be met as a busy mom and wife. I want it all – outstanding flavor and incredible ease in everything that I make. This recipe absolutely makes the cut. It’s called “Lasagna Stuffed Shells” because the cheese filling is very akin to what you would layer in a lasagna, or roll in your lasagna rolls if you’re me (very rarely do I make a traditional lasagna). You will probably have to use more than one baking dish, unless you want to only cook one box of shells and cut the rest of the ingredients in half. I find shells to be tricky – you don’t quite know what you’re getting out of the box until you get them in the water, and there’s no guarantee that more won’t crack after cooking. I figure it’s better to have too much than not enough, so I adjusted this recipe accordingly. It’s a great family meal and it goes a long way, as do most pasta dishes I make. Enjoy!

~Sam~

Lasagna Stuffed Shells

Ingredients:

–          2 boxes jumbo shells, cooked according to package directions, and drained thoroughly

–          1 lb bulk sweet Italian sausage (you can use hot sausage if you prefer it, or even plain ground hamburger – I always use sausage)

–          1 32 oz container ricotta cheese

–          2 8 oz pkgs mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed, and caps diced

–          4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

–          3 cloves garlic, minced

–          1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

–          Salt and pepper to taste

–          ½ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

–          1 tbsp onion powder

–          1 45 oz jar pasta sauce

Directions:

1)      Heat oven to 350. In a large nonstick skillet, brown the sausage over medium high heat, stirring frequently to break up. Drain thoroughly and allow to  cool slightly.

2)      In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, mushrooms, 2 cups mozzarella, garlic, ½ cup Parmesan, onion powder, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Add sausage and stir until evenly combined.

3)      Spread an even layer of sauce on the bottom of a 9x13x2” baking dish (or each  if using more than one dish). Fill prepared shells evenly with cheese and sausage mixture. Arrange filled shells in baking dish(es). Spoon remaining pasta sauce evenly over shells. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and mozzarella.

4)      Cover dish(es) with aluminum foil (see NOTES) and bake until bubbling, 30-40 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

 

NOTES:

–          I learned a great trick from my mother that I use whenever I make this type of dish. When baking any dish that is topped with cheese, cover with parchment paper before covering with aluminum foil. This way the cheese does not stick to the covering! Parchment paper is another of my cannot-live-without kitchen items. You can also try another great product that’s out there that I just recently started using – nonstick aluminum foil. The stuff is amazing! Just be sure you mind which side is the nonstick surface and cover accordingly.

–          If your shells stick together after draining, run a little warm water over them in the colander to separate them. Just be sure they are not dripping wet when you fill them up with the cheese mixture.

 

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