I’m not fond of dishes that require a lot of fussy labor. Recipes that require rolling, kneading, or stuffing, usually do not make it onto my “must try” list. That said, every cooking rule I make for myself, is made to be broken. These shells are worth the five minutes it takes to stuff them with this rich, cheesy filling. The only problem is how quickly they disappear. You won’t have leftovers to enjoy.
If you have any interest in making your own marinara instead of buying one of the many yummy varieties on your grocery store shelves, this recipe is a great starting point for you. You’ll save time and energy making it by not chopping and pureeing fresh tomatoes. Instead, you get to use a couple jumbo cans of crushed tomatoes. Big time-saver!
This recipe makes a half stockpot-full, so you have plenty for your stuffed shells and plenty for a pizza a couple days later and plenty to freeze. My kind of sauce. The oregano in it is lovely, and the crushed red pepper adds just enough tickle to make it interesting. And you get a clear conscience, knowing exactly what went into your sauce, and what didn’t. No corn syrup, no dyes, no preservatives. Just good, basic ingredients.
Semi-from-Scratch Marinara Sauce
1 tsp. olive oil
1 1/2 c. finely chopped onion
2 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic
2 28-oz. crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. sugar, plus extra if desired
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
Place a large nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, onions and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but not brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, sugar, red pepper flakes, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Stir until well combined. Turn the heat to low. Cook, covered, at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
12 jumbo pasta shells, prepared according to package instructions
2 c. marinara sauce, approximately
1 c. ricotta
4 oz. (about 1 1/4 c.) finely shredded mozzarella cheese
3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan, plus extra for topping
1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper, to taste
Mix all filling ingredients together. Spoon into a ziplock baggie. Cut the tip off one end, zip the top of the bag closed, and carefully squeeze the filling into the prepared, cooled shells.
Spread a light layer of marinara on the bottom of a 9″ pie dish. Arrange the stuffed shells on top of it. Spoon the rest of the marinara sauce over them. Sprinkle grated Parmesan on top.
Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.