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I’ve been working with a friend/neighbor, cooking together once a week, to help increase her repertoire and confidence in the kitchen.

We make a meal for that night and another meal for the next night… something in the crock-pot or a casserole that can be refrigerated overnight and then popped in the oven the next day.

She has two sons who are picky eaters, I had forgotten what it felt like to have picky eaters! Because of that, we are taking it slow.  Let’s see; no fish or seafood, extremely limited variety of vegetables (when I say limited, I’m talking only potatoes, corn, and tomato), nothing too spicy… you get the picture.

They like pasta, red sauce, and meatballs… so I came up with this easy recipe for the “second-night” dinner… from the refrigerator to oven.  Add a fresh salad and she is ready to rock and roll.

Stuffed Shells and Meatballs

1 tablespoon salt
1 box jumbo pasta shells
1 package  pre-seasoned meatballs, divided
26-ounce jar chunky tomato sauce
28-ounce can peeled whole tomatoes
15-ounce container ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1/2 cup shredded provolone cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup minced fresh basil
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
8-ounce package shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and cook the pasta shells according to the directions on the box.  After cooking, drain, shock in an ice bath, and then drain well.

In the large bowl break up 4 of the meatballs with a fork.  Add the tomato sauce and the can of peeled whole tomatoes.  Break up the tomatoes with a fork.

In a medium bowl combine the ricotta, Parmesan, shredded provolone, egg, basil, and Italian seasoning. Stir until well blended.

Spoon the ricotta cheese mixture into a freezer-quality zip-lock bag. Cut 1 corner of the bag and use it to fill each pasta shell with cheese mixture.

Pour 2 inches of the sauce-meatball mixture into a baking dish.

Add 12 cheese stuffed shells, top with 1/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese, and pour half of the remaining sauce mixture over the shells. Place the remaining 12 stuffed shells on top, add the remaining sauce mixture, and top with the remaining mozzarella cheese. Slice the remaining 4 meatballs in half and place them around the perimeter of the baking dish.

Cover with foil, place in oven, and bake for 55 minutes.  Remove from oven, remove foil, and let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 24 shells


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