Dinner Time

In the middle of the week, I need dinners that are fast and involve a few ready-made ingredients.  I love "fortifying" marinara sauce by adding onions, garlic and fresh herbs.  Tonight, I made one of the ultimate comfort foods: stuffed shells.  The benefit of this recipe is that I had enough to make double batches and freeze one for next week!  As Ina would say, "how easy is that?"

For filling:
  1. 1 large container of ricotta cheese
  2. 2 eggs
  3. 1 cup of shredded mozarella
  4. 1/2 cup of Parmesan
  5. 1 box of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed
  6. salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together and place in the refrigerator while you cook the sauce.  This will allow the mixture to firm up and will be easier to scoop with a spoon.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Meanwhile, boil water and prepare a box of large shells according to instructions on the box.  I usually subtract one minute of cooking time from what's listed, as I prefer more al dente pasta.  Cook pasta and drain.

For sauce:
  1. 2 jars of your favorite marinara
  2. 1 container of fresh mushrooms, diced
  3. 1 large yellow onion, diced
  4. 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  5. 1 lb of lean ground beef
  6. 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  7. 1 teaspoon oregano
  8. 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  9. salt and pepper to taste
Cook the onion until translucent. Add garlic.  Cook for one minute.  Add mushrooms and cook until lightly sautéed. Add beef and cook until browned.  Drain fat from meat.  Stir sauce, meat, and onion/mushroom mixture together.  Add spices and herbs.  Simmer for 10 minutes.

Spread one cup of sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Assemble the shells.  Scoop one large tablespoon of ricotta mixture into each shell and fill your baking dish.  Top with half of remaining sauce and then with more mozzarella and shredded Parmesan.  If you are planning to eat immediately, bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

I can generally fill one large dish and one small dish with the recipe.  I will freeze the smaller dish.  If you are planning to freeze a batch, prepare everything up to the point of baking.  Top the dish with a layer of Saran wrap and freeze.  When ready to eat, thaw in the fridge overnight and bake at 350 degrees for an hour. 
Oy!  I could really use a food stylist!  Let's just say this looks "rustic," but I assure you it tastes YUMMY!
Enjoy with a nice fresh salad and a loaf of crusty bread.  Oh and a little Chianti will make the dinner that much more delish! 

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