There’s a good reason why this picture of stuffed shells is half eaten. After writing about my mother’s Sunday Gravy last week on Bay Area Bites, I was really in the mood for a hearty Italian dish. Although I was tempted to make the gravy itself, I was too exhausted after adopting a puppy last Saturday. Bolognese seemed a nice compromise, and what better way to eat it than with stuffed shells. By the time the dish was finished, my family and I didn’t waste a moment before we dug into this cheesy dish topped with a slow-simmered meat sauce. It wasn’t until we were done eating and I was sipping what remained of my glass of red wine that I realized I forgot to take the picture. Oops.
Stuffed shells is one of those great dishes that looks difficult, but is actually very easy. After making a simple beef Bolognese, it’s just a matter of cooking the shell pasta until it’s al dente and then stuffing them. You can even make everything a day ahead, and then assemble when ready to bake.
My baked stuffed shells with Bolognese really hit the spot, satisfying my craving for a rich Italian meaty sauce without all the work of making a traditional gravy.
Simple Beef Bolognese
1 Tbsp Olive oil
1 pound ground beef (preferably not too lean)
1 medium onion diced into small pieces
1 medium carrot diced into small pieces
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 small can tomato paste
1 (16-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand, with the juices
1 cup red wine
1 cup beef or chicken broth or water
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp fresh basil chopped
- Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot or pan (I like to use cast iron or a Le Creuset)
- Add onion, carrots, and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat or until vegetables are soft.
- Add meat and cook until it is lightly browned
- Incorporate the tomato paste and herbs into the meat and cook for another five minutes
- Add the wine and broth or water and stir, being sure to scrape the pan to deglaze any meat or tomato juices from the bottom
- Add the tomatoes and some salt and pepper to taste
- Simmer covered for at least an hour, preferably a little longer
1 box of large pasta shells
1 8-ounce container of fresh ricotta cheese
1 Tbsp fresh parsley or basil
Salt and Pepper
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Note: Double the ricotta cheese, egg, and Parmesan cheese if you want the dish to be extra cheesy.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Cook pasta in salted water until it’s al dente
- Rinse pasta under cool water
- Mix the ricotta cheese, egg, herbs, and some salt and pepper together in a bowl
- Ladle some of the Bolognese sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish and set aside
- Stuff each shell with some of the ricotta mixture and then place in the prepared baking dish
- Cover the stuffed shells enough sauce to cover the pasta
- Top with the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese
- Cover with aluminum foil, oiled on the bottom side
- Bake for 35 minutes covered, and then 10-15 more minutes uncovered or until the cheese are bubbling and the dish looks done.
- Serve with any extra Bolognese sauce