Sunday, August 19, 2007

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells

The term "stuffed shells" is frozen in my memory as a nasty school lunch item that was on pretty heavy rotation at my elementary school. Whenever it was on the menu, I would opt for the tragic mini pizzas that were available everyday instead. I saw Giada De Laurentiis make these on her show when I was getting my teeth whitened several months ago for the wedding. I went to one of those fancy places where they zap you with light for an hour. Thankfully, they have little TV's you can watch so you don't go crazy. Her stuffed shells so changed my opinion of stuffed shells that I wanted to go home immediately and make them, despite the fact that I wasn't allowed to eat anything that would stain a white shirt for the next 36 hours.

I forgot about them until I saw the recipe in Everyday Pasta. Unfortunately I don't think I'll be making them again for a while, since Wei and dairy products aren't the best of friends (or fortunately, since this is pretty fatty and it probably shouldn't be eaten all the time!). This is a great "company" dish, since it makes a big pan-ful and is a crowd-pleaser. Giada recommends making a quick, slightly spicy Arrabbiata sauce to use in the dish. I decided to make it since it calls for pancetta and I had some leftover from Monday night's soup. It added a great flavor, but it's not necessary--regular marinara would work just fine!

1 12-ounce box jumbo pasta shells
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound ground turkey, preferably a mix of white and dark meat
Salt and pepper
1 can artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and chopped
1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped basil
5 cups Arrabbiata sauce or marinara sauce
1 and 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

For Arrabbiata sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves
1 jar of store bought marinara or 5 cups homemade

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the ground turkey, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and continue to cook until the turkey is completely done. Add the artichoke hearts and stir to combine. Put the mixture in a large bowl and let cool.

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta and, if you're using it, get on with the Arrabbiata sauce in the meantime. Heat the olive oil in a heavy pan or soup pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until it turns deep red and starts to crisp, about 6 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and garlic and saute until tender, about 1 minute. Add the marinara sauce and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low and let it mellow on its own until you're ready to use it.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and partially cook until tender but still very firm, stirring occasionally, 4 or 5 minutes. Drain. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Add the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to the turkey mixture. Stir to combine.

Cover the bottom of a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking dish with 1 cup of the Arrabbiata sauce. Hold a shell in the palm of your hand and stuff it with a large spoonful of the turkey mixture, about 2 tablespoons. Place the stuffed shell in the baking dish. Continue filling the shells until the baking dish is full; you should have about 24 shells. Spoon the remaining Arrabbiata sauce over the shells and top with the grated mozzarella. Bake until the shells are warmed through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 25 minutes.

Rating: This is awesome
I mean, just look at the picture up there.

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