…I’m sure she sells seashore shells.
Hubby and I enjoy having stuffed pasta shells. There’s a yummy meatless kind I make — Spinach Cheesy Stuffed Shells. We also enjoy Meat-Stuffed Shells Florentine. A few weeks ago, though, I was casting about for something a bit different for supper, something that would make use of a bought-on-sale package of Italian-seasoned ground turkey I had in the freezer that needed to be used, as well as a cup (8 ounces, half of a 16 ounce container) of cream cheese that I had leftover from when I’d made Cheese Lasagna. That’s when I came up with the idea for Cheese and Meat-Stuffed Shells. And as with my other stuffed-shells recipe, to keep it simple, I used a tin of prepared pasta sauce.
I usually make my own pasta sauce, but I do always like to keep a tin or two of Hunt’s Pasta Sauce in my pantry for a quick, easy meal. For example, I’ve found that it’s just the right amount of sauce for a frozen (or refrigerated) bag of ravioli. It’s also just the right amount of sauce for when I make stuffed shells — I figure I’m already futzing with stuffing the pasta shells, so unless I’m feeling especially like puttering in the kitchen, I usually make it easy on myself and doctor up a can of Hunt’s Pasta Sauce.
You can make this with lean (93/7 or greater) ground beef or ground turkey; it would also likely be yummy with lean, bulk ground turkey or pork sausage.
This smells — and tastes — so yummy! It’s fancy enough for company, comforting enough for a family meal, and perfect for a pot luck because it’s easy to serve a single shell for just a taste.
So the next time you’re wanting something a bit different with your pasta, give Missie’s Cheese and Meat-Stuffed Shells a try! And while they’re baking and making your kitchen smell yummy, pour yourself a glass of wine and pretend you’re on a seashore in Italy. 🙂
Missie’s Cheese and Meat-Stuffed Shells (Serves 5)
- 20 jumbo shells, cooked al dente (about 6 ounces)
- 1 to 1.25 pounds extra lean (93/7 or greater) ground beef or ground turkey OR 1 pound bulk lean ground turkey sausage or reduced-fat pork sausage (I used a package of Italian-seasoned ground turkey that I’d purchased on sale)
- 1 small or 1/2 large onion, finely minced/chopped
- 1 or 2 carrots, scraped and finely minced/chopped
- 1 or 2 celery stalks, finely minced/chopped
- Garlic (fresh or dried), to taste (we like a couple – three cloves)
- Coarse ground black pepper to taste
- 1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute
- 1/4 cup or so (I eyeball it) grated Parmesan, Three-Cheese Blend, Romano, or other desired Italian-style cheese
- 1 cup (8 ounces) cottage cheese (or you can use ricotta)
- Approximately 1 cup (4 ounces) grated, shredded, or torn mozzarella cheese
- Additional seasonings for sauce to taste: Worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes, basil, Italian seasoning, oregano, parsley, and a splash of red wine, if desired
- Favorite pasta sauce (I like Hunt’s Garlic and Herb or Hunt’s No-Sugar-Added Pasta Sauce, which comes in 24 ounce tins — 2 1/2 cups of sauce)
- Cook jumbo pasta shells in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve approximately 1/3 cup of the pasta water (this will be added to the meat mixture to “loosen” it up but also thicken it.) Drain pasta and rinse with cool water so that you will be able to handle them. (If desired, also gently dry them with a paper towel before filling).
- In a lightly oiled non-stick large skillet, cook finely chopped/minced onion, carrot, and celery (I whizzed the veggies through my wee mini food processor in batches). Cook vegetables until soft, fragrant, and beginning to caramelize (trust me, it’s worth the effort). Add in ground meat over medium to medium-high heat. Drain away oil (if you’re using extra-lean ground meat or sausage, there should be virtually no oil to drain). Add in garlic and, if desired, deglaze pan with a healthy splash of red wine (white would also likely work). Add seasonings to taste: Worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes, basil, Italian seasoning, oregano, parsley. Simmer and add in reserved pasta water; cook for another 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Meanwhile, if using cottage cheese, whiz through a blender or small food processor until smooth. (You can skip this part if you use ricotta cheese.) Stir in one egg (lightly beaten), parsley, and a bit of grated Parmesan, Romano, or whatever other favorite cheese you have on hand that you like to sprinkle over your pasta.
- Season pasta sauce as desired with additional seasonings (Worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes, basil, Italian seasoning, oregano, parsley, splash of red wine; whatever you like).
- Lightly oil or spray with cooking spray a 13″x9″ pan. Spread a small amount of pasta sauce (1/2 to 1 cup) along the bottom of the pan.
- Gently fill each pasta shell with a spoonful of the cheese mixture. Once all the cheese mixture is distributed among the shells, fill with the seasoned and cooked meat. Place in prepared 13″x9″ pan. Add in remaining pasta sauce. Sprinkle with grated, shredded, or torn mozzarella cheese.
- Cover pan with foil and place in oven. (Tip: Lightly spray with cooking spray or oil the side of the foil that will be facing the food.) Bake at 350F (no need to preheat!) for 45 minutes or so, until heated through and bubbly.
- Let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
- Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.