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Beef & Cheese-Stuffed Shells (or Two-Bite Lasagnas)

beef and cheese stuffed shellsI always wondered who bought those giant shells and stuffed them – until I tried it myself, and found it’s not finicky at all, and produces these wee two-bite lasagnas you can really stuff with anything you like. If you have kids around, small hands are particularly adept at stuffing pasta shells.

The filling to pasta ratio of a stuffed shell is far better than with lasagna, and it cooks far more quickly. You don’t have to worry about it setting. But perhaps the best part about this gussied-up twist on lasagna is that it makes two pans – that means you can stash one away for a no-effort dinner another night. (Or easily feed a crowd.)

Beef & Cheese-Stuffed Shells

Recipe courtesy of beefinfo.org.

1 box (340 g) jumbo pasta shells (approx. 44 shells)
1 lb (500 g) lean or extra lean ground beef sirloin
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2-3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. (5 mL) Italian seasoning
1 pkg. (454 g) light ricotta cheese
1 pkg. (300 g) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 tsp (2 mL) pepper
4 cups (1 L) pasta sauce
1/4 cup (50 mL) grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta shells according to package directions. Drain and set aside. (Don’t worry if some shells tear you won’t need them all.)

Meanwhile, cook the beef, onion, garlic and Italian seasoning in large, deep skillet set over medium heat until the beef is thoroughly cooked and any liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat. Stir in the ricotta, spinach, 1 cup of the mozzarella and pepper. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the filling into each of about 32 shells.

Spread about a cup of the pasta sauce into each of 9×13-inch baking dish and a 9-inch glass pie plate (or similar sized baking dishes). Place 20 filled shells in the larger baking dish, and 10 to 12 in the pie plate. Drizzle the remaining pasta sauce over the shells, sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan. (At this point the dish can be covered and refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to 4 months). Cover loosely with foil and bake in 350°F oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5 minutes, until bubbly around the edges and golden on top. Makes 10 servings.

Photo credit: beefinfo.org

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