Cheesey, Saucy Stuffed Pasta Shells

These shells are the perfect balance of pasta, meat, sauce, and cheese. Anyone you share these with, if you choose to be generous, will be hard pressed to say no to seconds (or thirds, or…). An added bonus: you can make them in advance and freeze them for a quick weeknight meal. Serve with garlic bread, and you’re a quintessential Italian.

Stuffed Pasta Shells

Serves: 4 (or 6 as a side)

Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

You’ll need:

  • 1 box of giant pasta shells
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. oregano
  • 2 tsp. basil
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese (divided)
  • 1 jar marinara sauce (16 oz)

1. Prepare pasta according to packaging directions. My box gave me two cooking times: 1 to eat the shells right out of the pot, and one to prepare them for baking. Choose the “bake them” figure, or subtract two minutes from the “eat them” time.

2. Reserve 1/3 cup of your cooking water once they are done, and drain the shells. Set them aside to cool.

3. Cook your ground beef. Drain off any fat. Add to the pan your reserved pasta water, garlic powder, oregano, basil, parmesan, and 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Mix to combine.

4. Cover the bottom of a 9×13 inch glass pan with a thin layer of marinara sauce.

5. Fill each shell with a scoop of beef mixture, and lay it in the 9×13. Continue until all of the beef is used. Cover with remaining marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese.

6. If you’re going to freeze the shells for later, this is the point at which you would do so. If you’re not, cover with foil, bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil, bake for 3 more minutes, or until cheese gets a little brown.

7. Serve with garlic bread and a little more parmesan cheese–if that’s your thing.

To cook from frozen: allow it to thaw in the fridge all day, and then pick up at step #6. Enjoy!

What other make-ahead/freezer meals do you like?

If you’re interested…..lasagna and from scratch pasta.

Homemade Pasta (and a DIY pasta drying rack)

While we were in Italy (photos later this week, if you want to see!), I was looking for something souvenir-like to take home with me. I’m a big proponent of souvenirs being beautiful, useful and/or locally handcrafted. Better if they’re all of the above! After some thought–clothing? purse? a platter? linens? I settled on hunting down a pasta maker.

I found Bartolini’s in Florence, and didn’t look back. It was fun to wander their store, and the staff were so helpful. After thinking about it over lunch, we bought an Atlas 150 Pasta Maker. The Atlas is made in Italy, entirely stainless steel, and positively wonderful.

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If you follow me on Instagram, you know we gave the pasta maker its first go, and did beautifully!

Homemade Pasta

You’ll need:

  • 300 grams all purpose flour (yes, weigh your flour. If you don’t have a scale, it’s approximately 2- 1/3 cups. But really, weigh your flour)
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature

1. Measure the flour into a bowl. Make a well in the middle, and crack the eggs in. Using a fork, mix the flour and the eggs. Add more flour if it’s too wet, and add water, teaspoon by teaspoon, if it feels too dry.

2. Knead with your fingers for 3-4 minutes, adding flour and water as needed. Your goal is a dough that is not too sticky–if it sticks to your fingers even a little, it needs more flour.

3. Chop off small chunks of dough and run through the pasta roller. For fettuccine, you want to roll it out to a 5, for thinner pasta, roll it to a 7 (on the Atlas, anyway).

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4. After a chunk of dough is rolled and cut, hang the pasta on spoons/dowels or lay out flat on a cutting board while you make the rest (or make a handy pasta drying tree. Tutorial below!)

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5. Bring water to a boil. The pasta will only need to cook 3 or 4 minutes, since it’s fresh. Drain, and serve with whatever sauce you like (we browned 1 lb hamburger, drained it, added one jar of marinara sauce, and a few tablespoons of the pasta water).

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And the verdict is: AMAZING. I was skeptical our first time around would be a flop, but it wasn’t.

And the next time we make pasta, I’ll have my very own drying rack! Bob made one with just a few supplies–he’s the best!

You’ll need:

  • 2–1/4″, 36″ long dowels
  • 1–3/4″, 36″ long dowel
  • some material for a base, 5″x7″ (give or take)

How to:

Cut the 1/4″ dowel into 12″ segments (you’ll have 6 total), and the 3/4″ dowel down to 16″.

Using a drill press, drill a hole large enough for the 1/4″ dowel to fit perpendicularly in the top of the 3/4″ dowel. Rotate 30 degrees, and drill another hole 1/2″ lower than the first. Keep going, until you have 6 holes.

Using a drill press, drill a hole in the base to hold the 3/4″ dowel.

To finish it off, he beveled and sanded all of the edges. Before we use it, we’ll rub it with mineral oil.

This is what resulted! Is he great, or what?

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Happy pasta making!

Chicken and Fettucini Alfredo

I love pasta. It is the ultimate comfort food. It’s “curl up on the couch in your sweat pants and watch a good movie” food. It’s “invite the people you love, and serve a big pot of happiness” food. True fact: nothing says, “I love you,” like pasta and cheese.

20140319_191711Homemade Chicken and Fettucini Alfredo

Serves 3-4

You’ll need:

  • Half a box fettucini pasta
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • Dried parsley

1. Get your chicken cooking. We did ours on our George Foreman grill, and it worked pretty well. You could also bake it in the oven or pan fry it in a skillet.

2. Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the box.

3. To make the sauce, melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add cream, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add garlic powder, stir. Mix in Parmesan cheese–keep mixing until there are no more lumps. Keep pan on low heat until ready to serve. Sauce is based on this recipe.

4. When pasta is done, plate each serving. Slice the chicken breasts, and layer over pasta. Drizzle with sauce, and sprinkle parsley on top.

Double or triple as needed. Enjoy!