When it comes to my favorite foods, I’m a simple gal at heart.
Give me a great burger, a slice of toasted pound cake, a classic BLT, and I’m happy.
But sometimes “simple” can be quite deceptive.
Take stuffed shells. It’s one of my very favorite dishes – cheesy, saucy – what could be better? And a quick glance would indicate a very simple recipe, guaranteed to yield excellent results with little effort.
When I started making this dish (seriously, a million years ago) I was never quite satisfied with the end result. The shells were too mushy and the dish was always too watery. I also found the whole “stuffing the shells” thing to be quite messy and annoying.
And then one day (also a million years ago), just as I was just taking the dish out of the oven, I had to run out unexpectedly. I stuck the whole thing in the fridge and re-heated it the next night. (after sprinkling the top with some extra shredded cheese I had lying around – can you ever go wrong with more cheese?).
And – by Jove – it was perfect.
The shells were firm, not mush. The filling? Not at all watery. And the top was the ideal blend of cheesy, crunchy……oh my.
I discovered the secret.
It’s twice baking. I would have never tried this, thinking that the dish would wind up being TOO dry, the pasta TOO crunchy and the cheese totally desiccated.
Nope. That second bake is the magic bullet for perfect stuffed shells. Of course the beauty of this is that you can bake the whole dish early in the day (or even the night before), making this the perfect dinner for a busy night.
And I’ve been “twice baking” ever since. This dish freezes beautifully too, so I’ll typically make it in two 8 x 8 pans and put one pan in the freezer for another time (or to bring to a friend – it’s always a hit and very child-friendly too!).
As for stuffing the shells? Ever since I discovered the “Hello Cupcake” books, I’ve been using their genius technique for filling cupcake liners, using a Ziploc bag and plastic container. I tried it with the cheese filling and – well, game changer people! No mess, so easy and super quick!
Don’t you love when things work out like that? Any “happy accidents” in the kitchen you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about it!
from forever ago
1 package of jumbo shells
30 oz. ricotta cheese
1/2 c. grated parmesan
1 T. chopped parsley
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/8 t. nutmeg
16 oz. shredded mozzarella, divided
1 jar spaghetti sauce (I like Rao’s brand)
Pre-heat oven to 350. Spread a little sauce in the bottoms of two 8 x 8 (or one 9 x 1 3) pans.
Place two quart-size ziploc bags into tall plastic containers (take-out soup containers work great here). Fold the tops over the edges of the containers; set aside.
Prepare pasta according to package directions, rinse with cold water and drain.
While water is boiling, combine ricotta, parmesan, eggs, parsley, spices and 1/2 the mozzarella in a large bowl.
Divide the cheese mixture evenly between the two ziploc bags. Remove the bags from the containers, push out any excess air and seal. Snip a 1” opening in the corner of one bag and fill the shells, placing them into your prepared pan(s). Repeat with remaining cheese mixture and shells.
Cover shells with remaining sauce and sprinkle with the rest of the mozzarella.
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Cover tightly and store, overnight, in the fridge (or store in freezer for several months; defrost in fridge overnight prior to reheating).
To “twice bake”: Pre-heat oven to 350. Bake shells, uncovered, till heated through – about an hour.
This delicious recipe brought to you by Donuts, Dresses and Dirt