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Stuffed Shells?

How do you make your stuffed shells? I

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  1. I have stuffed them uncooked and par-boiled; I prefer the par-boiled method best. True, the uncooked shells are easier to stuff but the finished dish tends to be a bit too starchy for my taste. The trick is in knowing when to remove them from the water. I simply allow them to soak in boiling water (not a rolling boil, just keep it at about 210 - 212 degrees) until they're slightly tender but still firm enough to hold their shape while stuffing. I rinse and cool them, stuff them, bake in whatever sauce strikes my fancy for that moment in time..

    6 Replies
    1. re: todao

      I like to play with the stuffing, have used gorgonzola, spinach, pesto and so on. Good hot or cold, when cold they taste like pastries! I use the basic recipe on the Ronzoni box, by the way.

      1. re: todao

        never rinse pasta. you rinse the starch down the drain and the sauce won't cling.

        i parcook, drain, then lay them on a towel to cool. i like them with old school filling, with ricotta, sausage and spinach. garnish with grated romano and mozz and a scant amount of tomato sauce. cook covered with foil at first, then remove the foil to brown up the top.

        1. re: hotoynoodle

          I've never heard that about starch and sauce. I don't do it but wonder why in some restaurants the sauce doesn't stick to the pasta. I always assumed they added oil to the pasta but maybe some are rinsing it in water when they first cook the pasta, to stop the cooking process?

          To the OP, I like the traditional ricotta stuffing but like to add fried pancetta to it. Spoon Marcella Hazan's pasta sauce (canned tomatoes, butter, onions, plus spices) over.

          1. re: chowser

            I was just reading about pasta and sauce sticking; this thought process was generated after Martha Stuart had a show about her favorite pasta from Italy, Maestri Pastai. I started reading about it online and it turns out that one reason she likes it so much to be a "favorite thing" is that they extrude it through brass plates, which leaves a very porous and rough surface which "grabs" the sauce and holds it. Most pasta is slick and the sauce comes right off, a matter of physics, not cooking technique. Anyway, I ordered 4 types of the pasta, at 3.99 for a very big bag, a terrific bargain for family-produced authentic Italian 100% semolina pasta. It came today. WOW! It's amazing. We got among the 4, a bag of the giant shells that look like snails and they are huge for stuffing. We also got 3 other kinds, all from ilovepastashop.com, 3.99 for a bag 3 times the size of the 12.00 Williams-Sonoma pasta I just tried. Anyway, I tried a sampling cooked with nothing but butter applied to it after cooking, and I could not believe it how the butter was literally on every surface of the pasta. They have some really fun shapes, as they say, authentic shapes that represent various regions of Italy. I am not a big Martha fan, but she got it right with this pasta. I am going to order a whole bunch to get the value out of my shipping charge. Oh, and the bags are huge. Porous and friction of the surface from the brass extruder plates, that's the big deal, and the good semolina. Highly recommended. I never had butter stick to all surfaces of a noodle before. We tried the taste test on the O'Solo Mio shape, which looks like a swirling sun. Very cool. You want unique shapes for a dinner of impressment (my new word), this is the way to go for looks and taste.

            1. re: riverwalk

              Interesting--so it could be the type of pasta the restaurant uses, not how they cook it. I'm going to check out that site. Thanks!

              1. re: riverwalk

                Interesting indeed. The web site doesn't have the oz. listed. What is the weight of the packages you purchased?

        2. I also parboil the shells first and cool them so they are easier to handle while stuffing.
          Recently we enjoyed large sized stuffed shells filled with ricotta creme and fig jam that had a balsamic glaze. This was served as an appetizer. One of my favorite ways to enjoy stuffed shells is filled with fresh tuna mousse and served with an olive oil sauce infused with thyme and shallots.

          2 Replies
          1. re: HillJ

            The fresh tuna mousse in clear sauce sounds delightful!

            I put plenty of chopped flat-leaf parsley in my ricotta filling, as well as a tiny pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. A tablespoon or so of Pernod in the filling is delightful, too.

            I cook the shells near all the way before stuffing. I use plenty of sauce and usually don't use meat (although I'm not a vegetarian). I sauce with a quick tomato/onion/garlic/basil sauce and always include fresh mozzarella on top. Then I bake at 300 for only a half hour.

            1. re: shaogo

              I love nutmeg shaogo. Your version for ricotta fillings sounds wonderful. Inspired by your suggestion, I will try adding grated nutmeg in the future.

          2. Love them stuffed with chopped meat mixed with diced mozarella...sometimes mushrooms too.

            1. My son isn't too picky of an eater but he really doesn't like traditional ricotta stuffed shells...too cheesy, he says. So, I've been making spinach stuffed shells and southwestern stuffed shells; both work fine!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Val

                i think this is my problem too.

              2. http://www.flickr.com/photos/7220939@...
                this is the last time I made them, and I used turkey, spinach and ricotta (garlic and onions). These were really good, the turkey really very good.

                4 Replies
                1. re: chef chicklet

                  I used to freeze mine and cook still frozen in individual casseroles buried in a marinara sauce for 1 hour at 350. Haven't made them since we became empty nesters but they were so good with a locally made ricotta cheese.

                  1. re: ginnyhw

                    I love to make them I find that I need only pasta dishes like this only a couple of times a year. I am not huge at eating pasta, but this is terrific party dish or for guests.
                    How long (many months) can you keep the casseroles in the freezer this way?
                    How lucky to have locally made ricotta, I love ricotta.

                    1. re: chef chicklet

                      I stuff the shells and freeze them on a sheet tray- then I bag them and use them ad hoc- 2 make a casserole for 1 person. I think 6 months is my limit because when the seasons change I want room in the freezer for new stuff.

                  2. I just put some together tonight that seem pretty successful.

                    I boiled the shells until pliable, but not too soft, then drained and cooled them on a kitchen towel.

                    For the filling, I put some leftover chunks of ricotta salata into my food pro with about half a log of plain goat cheese, a handful of chopped parsley, a tbsp of ground black pepper, and a tbsp of Penzey's Bavarian spice mix. I pulsed this until crumbly, then added a medium-sized tub of cottage cheese (which I had drained for an hour or so), and half a bag of frozen chopped spinach (which I had dunked into hot water, and then thoroughly drained). I whizzed it all in the food pro until it was a smooth green-flecked mixture, and added salt to taste. I stuffed the shells and set to the tomato sauce.

                    For the sauce I did a quickie version with onion, 3 chopped raw garlic cloves, 5 chopped roasted garlic cloves, a few anchovy fillets, diced tomatoes, red wine, and fresh rosemary, marjoram, and basil.

                    Did a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of the casserole dish, crammed the shells in there, covered them completely with sauce, and dusted it all with grated parm. Covered with foil, baked at 350 for 30 minutes.

                    Haven't tried them yet, but they smell heavenly.

                    4 Replies
                      1. re: litchick

                        sounds great, litchick!
                        i'm curious about the bavarian spice blend. Hand-mixed from: crushed brown mustard, rosemary, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and sage.

                        hmmm, mustard and sage? interesting components for stuffed shells. maybe the mustard gives the filling some "spark" and depth. sometimes i find my shells miss that oomph -- and i try to remedy that with fresh parm and pecorino. maybe i'll add a touch of mustard next time.

                        1. re: alkapal

                          I like the Bavarian blend because it has a little sharpness married to the earthy herbiness. It's a really good all-around blend, and one of the ones I use most often (as well as Northwoods, Tuscan blend, and Turkish blend).