Food

Bonus Sunday cooking adventures: Hamburger and cheese stuffed pasta shells

Yum!

Yum!

I have been totally fascinated by the giant pasta shells in the grocery store. Every week I look at them and wonder how they would taste stuffed with meat and cheese.

So my guilt is high, because cheese is high in sodium.  But I’m going to make the stuffed shells and use some restraint when I eat them, as will the rest of my family.

I looked and looked for a recipe, but most of them were too creamy for me. I wanted meat and tomatoes and maybe a little less cheese than most of the recipes I found called for.  I’m not a huge ricotta fan, but when it’s mixed in with other cheeses, I’m OK with it, and it is lower in sodium than most cheese. I also used low fat mozzarella, and low fat cheddar and Colby. Not traditional, but I wanted to change the flavor a little.

Finally, I could have used bottled maranara sauce, but I chose to make some, adapting a recipe that I found in Martha Stewart’s Tomato-Sausage Lasagna recipe. It is quick to make and delicious. But there’s no reason you couldn’t use bottled (Watch the sodium and the fat — the cheese has plenty of both already).

Here is the recipe. Hope you enjoy it!

Brown the meat and onion. Takes about 5 minutes.

Brown the meat and onion. Takes about 5 minutes.

Hamburger and cheese stuffed pasta shells

(For sauce)
2 teaspoons of olive oil
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning (or other seasonings you like)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 28-ounce cans of diced or crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper (optional. I used pepper, the cheese offered plenty of salty flavor).

(For pasta and stuffing)
2 teaspoons of olive oil (you can skip this if you use a fattier meat like sausage or ground beef)
1 large onion
2 pounds ground sirloin (or sausage or other ground meet — use what you like)
1 egg white
1 12-ounce box of jumbo pasta shells (box should indicate they are for stuffing)
1 pound low-fat ricotta cheese
8 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated, divided
3/4 cup parmesean cheese, grated finely
8 ounces low fat cheddar and Colby cheese (combined), grated
(I bought all the cheese already grated at the store except the ricotta, which I bought in a small tub).

Sauce before it meets the emersion blender.

Sauce before it meets the emersion blender.

1) Make sauce: Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, and red-pepper flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and their puree; bring to a boil. Reduce to a rapid simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 minutes. (You should have about 8 cups of sauce.) Season with salt and pepper. (I used diced tomatoes, so I used an emersion blender to break them down into a smooth sauce when I was done cooking it. You can skip this step if you used crushed tomatoes or you like a more rustic sauce).

2) While sauce is cooking: Cook pasta shells according to package directions. Drain, rinse in cold water so they don’t stick together, and set aside.

Mix cheese and egg white.

Mix cheese and egg white.

3) Brown one medium size onion and 2 pounds of ground sirloin.  Drain fat and discard. Set meat  aside to cool. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat one egg white. Mix in ricotta, 1/2 cup of mozzarella, 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, and all of cheddar and Colby cheese. Add ground meat.  Mix thoroughly.

I used a small and a large baking dish.

I used a small and a large baking dish.

3) Prepare a large baking dish and a small one. By now, your sauce should be done. Put a ladle or two of sauce in the bottom of each dish, making sure to cover the bottoms.  Stuff the shells one at a time with a heaping tablespoon of filling, putting them in the baking dishes as you fill them.  You should have enough stuffing and shells to fill the two pans.

4) Spoon remaining sauce over shells.  Sprinkle remaining mozzarella on top of shells, add more if needed. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until heated through and done.

 



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