Stuffed shells were actually one of the first meals that my husband cooked for me when we started dating. It was a little over nine years ago, and in his college apartment he sautéed some bell peppers, stuffed them in jumbo pasta shells, and topped them with soy cheese. We ate shells, drank cheap wine, and had a movie marathon that night. His meal was impressive, thoughtful, and quite good. He made me a few more noteworthy meals after that, but then quickly allowed me to take over the shell-stuffing duties (and basically all other cooking) in our household. While some say he’s lucky, I believe that I am lucky too because I get to cook for someone who wants to eat my food all of the time!
I find myself in an interesting position right now to be blogging to you about a dish that I have never tasted myself. I’ve made this about a dozen times for my husband (which he has graciously shared with some colleagues on occasion), and also for our dear friend “K”. But until I find a soy version of ground turkey, I’ll have to rely on their opinions...
They all LOVE this dish. In fact, we simply refer to this dish as “shells” in our household. I think this is a perfect dish to make and package up for later servings. I’ll make a batch and then pack them in his lunch throughout the week. My husband thinks of this dish to be like a lighter version of meatballs tucked inside coats of pasta.
This is one of the many Giada De Laurentiis recipes that I cook. At this point I can’t even begin to count how many recipes of hers that I have tried, but all have had one thing in common – they are delicious! We’ve never been disappointed by any of her recipes. With each new dish, we say, “Giada does it again!” In this recipe, Giada calls for Arrabbiata sauce, however I always use my traditional marinara, seasoned with a little extra crushed red pepper.
I haven’t made this recipe since last winter, and my husband was so excited when I announced the return of the shells this week. Last night after work we found ourselves contemplating a few restaurants in the area to grab dinner at, but his response was, “There are shells at home in the fridge, right?” I confirmed and we made our way back home to enjoy an evening in with shells, and some nice wine this time.
Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells
(From Everyday Pasta)
* 1 (12-ounce) box jumbo pasta shells (recommended: Barilla)
* 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
* 3 cloves garlic, chopped
* 1 pound ground turkey
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/4 teaspoon
* 1 (8 to 10-ounce) package frozen artichokes, thawed and coarsely chopped
* 1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
* 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
* 2 eggs, lightly beaten
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
* 5 cups Marinara Sauce
* 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella (about 5 ounces)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and partially cook until tender but still very firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain pasta.
Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook until the onions are soft and starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the ground turkey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is slightly golden and cooked through. Add the artichoke hearts and stir to combine. Remove from heat and let cool.
In a large bowl combine the cooled turkey mixture with the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, parsley, and the remaining salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Cover the bottom of a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish with 1 cup of Marinara sauce. Hold a shell in the palm of your hand and stuff it with a large spoonful of turkey mixture, about 2 tablespoons. Place the stuffed shell in the baking dish. Continue filling the shells until the baking dish is full, about 24 shells. Drizzle the remaining Marinara Sauce over the shells, top with the grated mozzarella. Bake until the shells are warmed through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 25 minutes.