Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday Suppers

Hey people, I'm baaaaaaack...

Sorry for the nearly summer-long hiatus.  I guess even though Dan and I didn't take a honeymoon per se (that comes later - Thailand in January!), we kind of checked out of the universe for a time.  But now Dan's back to school, and I'm back to reality, so let's get cooking!

Since Dan is taking pre-med classes mainly in the evenings, I've been strategizing ways to keep him nourished and away from the automatic takeout loop.  The answer, I'm finding, is in casseroles.  Big hearty dishes that I can make in bulk on Sundays, to be reheated at a moment's notice and last the whole week long.  So I'm hereby instituting a new series on the blog, which we'll call Sunday Suppers.  How bout it?  Maybe this will finally slap me into a steady cooking routine, something I've fallen off the wagon with in the past, say, two years.  That's what happens when you cook for a living, I guess.  Hmm...

A few words about this recipe: You can most definitely make them using the more traditional ricotta filling if you'd prefer, but I went the cottage cheese route because, a) it's much easier to find tasty cottage cheese than it is to find good quality ricotta (Polly-O, O no!), and b) it's packed with double the protein, making this much more filling without all that extra fat.  Great for those long nights in the chem lab (for example).

Meaty Stuffed Shells adapted from recipe by Heidi Swanson
(serves 6 to 8)

zest of one lemon

1/2 pound ground meat (beef, turkey, or a beef/pork/veal blend, all good choices)
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (Calabrese is the best, if you can find it)
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoons dried oregano
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 16-ounce container 4% milkfat cottage cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 cup (about 5 oz.) grated mozzarella
1 bunch chives, finely chopped
large pinch of salt

25-30 jumbo pasta shells (Ronzoni makes nice ones)


Oil a 13 x 9 inch (or equivalent) 3 quart baking dish and sprinkle with half the lemon zest.  Put up a big pot of pasta water to boil and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To make the sauce, heat a saucepan over high heat and add the meat.  Break up with a spoon as it browns and cook until no longer pink.  Add the red pepper flakes, garlic, and some salt, and cook another minute or so.  Add in the tomatoes and oregano, lower to medium, and cook covered about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking.

To make the filling, combine the cottage cheese, egg and some salt in a bowl.  Mix well until smooth and combined, then stir in 1/2 of the mozzarella, 3/4 of the chives, and the rest of the lemon zest.

Cook the shells according to the box instructions in salted water until al dente.  Be careful not to overcook or the shells will fall apart as you fill them.  Drain and let cool until you can comfortably handle them.

Spread 1/3 of the sauce across the bottom of the baking dish.  Fill each shell with the cheese filling, arranging them in a single layer across the dish.  Ladle the remaining sauce over the shells and sprinkle with the rest of the mozzarella cheese.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, then another 15 minutes uncovered.  Sprinkle with the remaining chives and serve hot.

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