Stuffed shells

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
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • Butter

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.

About Lummox JR

Aspiring to be a beloved supervillain
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3 Responses to Stuffed shells

  1. Ema Jones says:

    I’m adding some garlic salt…

    • Lummox JR says:

      I’m a big garlic fan myself. I went back and forth on whether I’d want it with this dish, though; something about the simplicity of the cheese and herbs alone sounded better to me.

      • Ema Jones says:

        Ofcourse, cheese and herbs also serve as great combination, I am thinking of having cheese sandwiches with herbs, taking your idea. Cravings :P

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