Recipe for Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce

“Have you ever made stuffed shells?”
“Nah. Too much work.”

I lost count how many times I had this conversation. But every time it went the exact same way. I asked, looking for encouragement and/or helpful hints. And my friends answered, reminding me why I, also, have never bothered with attempted stuffed shells.

But I’d said I was making stuffed shells, I’d bought the ingredients for stuffed shells, and darn it, I wanted to make stuffed shells!

The special occasion was my friend Teresa’s birthday and a visit from our friends, Sally, Cory and Chelley. And the stuffed shells, despite popular opinion, were not all that hard to make.

And even our friend’s reportedly picky two-year-old loved them!

Recipe for Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce

Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce

1-2 boxes of jumbo shells
1 lb. mild sausage
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup chopped onion
4-6 cups sauce (I use Prego traditional)
2 15-oz. cartons ricotta cheese
1 tbsp. parsley
1/2 cup chopped spinach
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded Italian blend cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Brown sausage with onion and garlic, drain fat and then add to sauce. While sauce simmers, boil the pasta to al dente firmness. (You don’t want it to be too soft, because they will fall apart when you bake it) Drain water and pat dry with a paper towel. In a separate bowl (not on the stove!), combine ricotta, parsley, spinach and Parmesan. Spoon cheese mixture into shells and place into two, greased 9×13 pans. Pour meat sauce over shells and sprinkle Italian blend on top. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Now, obviously you don’t need to make enough for 10 people. You could use just one box of shells and have a full 9×13 pan – more than enough for four people. In that case, use half the cheese and other ingredients.

Stuffing the shells is a little time-consuming, but not difficult. After accepting the obligatory compliments on the dish, I asked my friends to be honest and tell me if it was really worth the effort to make what is basically lasagna in a different shape. They kindly said yes, that they preferred the pasta to cheese ratio of shells better than that of lasagna. (Plus, Cory claims that the extra effort just makes it taste better!)

Have you ever made shells? What’s your favorite pasta to cheese ratio?

This post will be linked to Mouthwatering Monday, Tasty Tuesday, Tuesdays at the Table, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, 33 Shades of Green, Foodie Friday, Friday Firsts and Food on Fridays. It will also be linked to Ingredient Spotlight at Eat at Home.

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