Stuffed Shells

Stuffed Shells are great to mix up and freeze! Brittany's PantrySeconds, please!!  That is what your family will be saying after they eat this pasta.  Its hot, easy, and perfect for company.  Baked pasta filled with cheese.  Is there anything better?  The great thing too is that you can change it to however you happen to like your italian food.  I vary this recipe quite often so experiment!  And any of you who think that this recipe sounds like alot of work, don’t fret.  It comes together really easy.  I am not a huge lover of ricotta cheese, so I like the fact that this gives you that salty, creamy, satisfying bite (just like lasagna) that is so comforting, but without the graininess.  This recipe is a regular at my house.  Originally, the idea came from a recipe my friend had, but I have changed it so much, its all my own!  That is the best way to create in your kitchen.  A nudge in the right direction and a little necessity, and you end up with a hit.  Add a Caesar salad and some garlic bread and you have a classic italian dinner.  If you want to change it up, roasted zucchini is fantastic with this.  Toss cubed zucchini and/or summer squash in a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and some italian seasoning and roast at 450 till a bit brown and soft.  Don’t let it get mushy.  If you don’t have room in the oven because of the pasta, use the same ingredients and saute the veggies on the stove just before dinner time.

One of the things I like the best about this recipe is that it makes a huge amount, but freezes well.  If I am not serving this for company, I either halve the recipe (which is very easy to do with this one) or make two smaller pans instead of one big one, and put the second one, assembled but unbaked, in the freezer.  Wrap it well in plastic wrap and then foil and the pan should keep just fine for a few months.  If I am really thinking ahead, I make the second pan in a 9X9 aluminum disposable and then I don’t have to sacrifice one of my glass baking dishes.  This meal would be great to bring to a neighbor or new mommy.  Leftovers are awesome!
Stuffed Shells are great to mix up and freeze! Brittany's PantryStuffed Shells

1 box Jumbo Shells

2- 8 oz pkgs cream cheese, room temp
3 c shredded mozzarella
3/4 c grated Parmesan
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 T chopped fresh chives
2 jars marinara sauce
1/2 lb italian sausage, browned, crumbled and drained
Parmesan and mozzarella cheese

Cook pasta shells until they are still just a bit chewy.  You want to do this because they will cook more as they bake in the oven and your don’t want mushy pasta!  Drain and rinse shells.  Set aside.  While pasta is cooking, mix together all filling ingredients.  Spray a large, 9X13 glass baking dish with cooking spray.  Pour 1/2 jar of marinara into dish.  If you like your pasta really saucy, use a whole jar.  Fill each shell with about 1 T of filling and place upright in the pan.  When all the shells are filled, layer the italian sausage over the top and pour remaining jar of marinara evenly over the shells.  *Pasta can be frozen at this point.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until hot and bubbly in the center.  Sprinkle the top with more Parmesan and mozzarella cheese, letting it melt and brown slightly during the last 10 minutes of baking.  Let the pasta cool 15 minutes before serving.

Hint:  Feel free to omit the sausage for a vegetarian version.  Or you could add the sausage to the pasta sauce instead of the filling!