Stuffed Shells


Back when I was a kid, my mom would make certain dinners on the rare occasions when we left her alone long enough to actually cook something interesting for dinner.  I was never a big fan of pasta, but I loved these shells because of the delicious cheesy filling.  Plus, they're in perfect serving size portions.  It's like easy lasagna.  Also a great way to feed a big group or stretch out dinners for the week.

Note: Use whatever pasta sauce you like.  I used vodka sauce because it's my favorite, but any jarred sauce will work.

Stuffed Shells

1 pound mild Italian sausage
1 (24-ounce) jar pasta sauce
2 (15-ounce) containers whole milk ricotta
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
¾ pound zucchini, grated
1 (12-ounce) box jumbo shells

In a large skillet, brown the sausage over medium-high heat, discarded excess fat once done.  Pour in the jar of pasta sauce, and combine.  Spoon approximately 1/3 of the sauce into the bottom of a 13x9-inch glass baking dish.  Set dish and remaining sauce aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, salt, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, Parmesan cheese, and ¼ cup of mozzarella.  Put the grated zucchini in several layers of paper towel, and squeeze over the sink to remove excess water.  When zucchini is somewhat dry, add it to the ricotta mixture.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cook the shells according to the box directions, then drain.  Taking care with the hot shells, stuff each one using a tablespoon with ricotta mixture until full.  Place each shell on top of the sauce in the baking dish, fitting as many shells in as possible.  You may not use all of the shells, but try to only use unbroken shells for the best presentation.  Once all shells are stuffed, spoon the remaining sauce over the top, then sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese.  Spray one side of a sheet of aluminum foil with Pam or olive oil, then put the foil, sprayed side down, on top of the baking dish and bend in the sides to cover.

Bake 30 minutes, covered, then remove the foil and bake an additional 5 to 7 minutes so the cheese finishes melting and browning.

Makes 8 servings