Every year around Christmas my father makes stuffed shells, which we have for one of the big holiday meals. He’s renowned for his sauce, which is lost on me because I don’t do sauce, but I enjoy the wonderful cheese-stuffed shells with butter all the same. Just for the heck of it, I thought I’d give it a try sometime.
Rather than just wing it completely, I wanted a guideline—for cooking time and approximate quantities if nothing else. The one I went with was this one from the Recipe Critic, but obviously with slight modifications. Since I loathe sauce, that didn’t make the cut, and I didn’t bother sprinkling mozzarella on afterward.
This is the rough recipe I used:
Stuffed shells (no sauce) Mark I:
- 20 jumbo shells
- 15 oz. whole milk ricotta
- 1½ cups whole milk mozzarella
- ½ cup Parmesan
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- 1 egg
Cook the shells about 9 minutes until al dente. Mix all three cheeses, salt and pepper, egg, and chopped herbs. Butter the bottom of a 9″×13″ baking pan, and place the shells around. Fill each shell and then add pats of butter throughout the dish. Cover with foil and place in a preheated 350° oven for 30 minutes, then uncover and cook an additional 10 minutes.
Now for the postmortem. I was overall very pleased with the way this came out; the shells were very tasty. I did however find things I wanted to change.
First, I think the filling was still a little too loose, even after baking. Using the rest of the mozzarella (for a full 2 cups) would probably have helped there.
Second, the Parmesan was a little too strong. As much as I think that it benefited the overall flavor, I think next time I’ll cut it back. 1/3 cup is probably right on the nose.
Third, I used way, way too much basil. The original recipe called for 12 leaves, but it was not specific as to size. The basil I had came with some large leaves and some small, so I was working with what might have been equivalent to four large leaves. It outpaced the oregano by quite a lot, and altogether I ended up with about half a cup of herbs after doing a very rough chiffonade. The minty, almost lemony flavor of the basil came out much too strong. It was good, but I’d be happier with something with a lighter touch. I’ll shoot for something closer to ¼ cup total.
A little more black pepper probably wouldn’t be bad, but otherwise I was happy with the seasoning.