Sunday, July 15, 2012

Italian Stuffed Shells with Italian Sausage

Italian Stuffed Shells with Italian Sausage
I have not made this dish in awhile.  We had a busy day on Saturday.  I went for two long walks (about 8 miles total) and, at lunch time, we attended a surprise birthday for our neighbor, Don, who actually turned 80 in April.  Don and his wife have been our neighbors to nearly 20 years and they are a great couple.  My busy day did not keep me from my weekend cooking frenzy. I made a pot of chili, shredded Buffalo Chicken in the slow cooker (for my lunches), and Italian Stuffed Shells with Italian Sausage.  This recipe is loosely based upon a recipe I found on the back of the box for Jumbo Shells (Barilla brand). I often add fresh garlic and fresh chopped Italian flat leafed parsley but I forgot to buy fresh parsley and I was just feeling too lazy to chop garlic.  This recipe is good for leftovers. The shells reheat fairly well, as compared to a denser Italian dish such as lasagna.  Somehow we can never successfully reheat lasagna... always super hot spots and cold spots.  Ick.  I prepared the shells and the sausage early in the day on Saturday and put them in the refrigerator separately and then assembled the dish while the oven preheated.

Italian Stuffed Shells with Italian Sausage
6 ounces (1/2 of a box) of Jumbo Shells (18 to 22 shells) - I used American Beauty Brand
1-15 ounce container ricotta cheese (part skim)
1 egg
2 cups finely shredded part skim mozzarella cheese, divided
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried Italian Herbs
a few grinds of freshly grated black pepper
a pinch or two of nutmeg - freshly grated if you have it (optional)
a pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 package (19 ounces) Johnsonville Italian Sausage links (sweet, hot, or mild)
1 jar of tomato pasta sauce (I used Bertolli Brand Olive Oil, Basil & Garlic sauce (24 ounces)

Cook jumbo pasta shells according to package instructions in a pot of boiling, salted water. Remove cooked shells from water with a slotted spoon and drain on a clean kitchen towel.  Add uncooked sausages to simmering water and cook for approximately 12 minutes (gentle simmer).  Drain water and brown sausages in the same pan (for 5 to 7 minutes or until sausages are cooked through).  I sprayed a bit of PAM (non-stick cooking spray) on the sausages and in the pan to help them brown and turned them frequently as they browned.  Set aside on a cutting board to cool slightly so you can slice them later.

In a large bowl, beat egg. Stir in ricotta, 1 3/4 cups mozzarella, 1/2 cup Parmesan, garlic powder, black pepper, nutmeg, and crushed red pepper flakes.  Mix well with a fork to distribute all ingredients.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Fill cooked pasta shells with ricotta mixture (I use a soup spoon for this).  Resist the temptation to over stuff the shells.  You can always go back and add more filling if you have extra.  Spray the bottom of a 9 x 13 x 2 inch baking dish with PAM or non-stick cooking spray.  Pour approximately 1/2 cup of the pasta sauce in the baking dish and spread it around. Place the stuffed shells in the prepared baking dish.  Cut the cooled sausages into coin shaped pieces (see photo) and distribute the sausage pieces around the stuffed shells in the pan (NOTE: don't panic if the sausages do not appear to be cooked all the way through.  They will cook completely in the oven).  Drizzle the remainder of the sauce over the stuffed shells and sausage pieces in the pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese and the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese over the sauce. Cover with aluminum foil and bake, covered, for 40-45 minutes.  Remove the foil CAREFULLY and cook 5 minutes more.  Let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.

I prepared the ingredients to his point and kept them in the fridge until dinner time. 
 I assembled the dish while the oven preheated.

Looking VERY tasty already!
Tip:  To keep the cheese from sticking to the aluminum foil,
spray a little PAM on the dull side of the foil before covering the pan.

Bubbly, cheesy goodness.



Coloradomom said...

You are so lucky that we don't live closer... otherwise we'd be over for dinner!

Kim said...

That would be fun!