Thursday, April 23, 2015

Italian Stuffed Shells

  I dislike cleaning out the fridge!  There always seems to be several little bits of perfectly fine food that was leftover and is now bound for the disposal!  If you hate throwing away food, too, don't despair!  You can make my Italian stuffed shells recipe and  incorporate any of the fridge leftovers that you find (that you consider compatable with cheese and pasta shells...not that Tupperware of leftover pancake batter!  Ha!).  This recipe  is like the meatloaf  or vegetable soup that your grandma might have made on leftover clean out day!  It uses up the,"scraps"!
 Yesterday, as I pulled jars and plastic food containers out and set them on the island so I could wipe down my refrigerator shelves, I found a small container of probably 2 tablespoons of canned diced tomatoes, the remnants of fresh Roma tomatoe slices from sandwiches earlier in the week, a fifth of a bag of fresh baby spinach and some fresh mushrooms that were both past looking nice enough for salad.  On another shelf, I saved a partial bag of mozzarella cheese and a half-full container of ricotta cheese.  So, when I share this recipe, realize that it doesn't have exact amounts on some things;  we're using what we have.

First, I got out my large Texas skillet and browned an Italian sausage in a little olive oil (I always cut the casing off).  I browned a handful of lean ground beef in the same skillet with a little garlic salt.  Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil and throw in a box of jumbo pasta shells;  cook until half done, then drain and set aside to cool.  
  Place browned meat, leftover tomatoes and other vegetable remnants (I mix the fresh spinach in with the ricotta, later) into a greased slow cooker with a jar of roasted garlic flavored marinara sauce.  I put some of my fresh basil (from my back porch) in there, too.  Cook on low for several hours.
  When ready to put in the oven, mix mozzarella (or other leftover shredded cheese) with ricotta and 1 tablespoon parsley and garlic salt.  Use a teaspoon to stuff this cheese filling into the shells.  For half of our shells, I mixed the leftover spinach in with the ricotta-you could use up kale this way, too!

Now, put a thin layer of the sauce in the bottom of your greased casserole dish, layer the stuffed shells, top with the rest of the sauce and then shredded cheese.  Cover with non-stick foil and bake at 375 until shells are tender and cheese is melted.  Enjoy!

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