Monday, October 22, 2012

Deconstructed Un-Stuffed Shells


While meandering up and down the aisles at the grocery store the other day - something, as you can well imagine, I do with significant frequency! - I saw that small pasta shells were on sale: $1 for a one-pound box.

Well, I'm a pretty frugal girl. I had to bring some home with me.

Now, I love stuffed pasta shells, filled with rich ricotta cheese and smothered in a lively tomato sauce. But as much as I love to bake from scratch, shell peas, or pit cherries, I don't want to fuss over shoving spoonfuls of the cheese into a giant pasta shell that's modestly trying to keep itself closed. Too much bother. And I don't want to wait for my dinner while it bakes, either, especially when I'm really hungry after a long day of work and errands.

So it occurred to me that I could cook up these smaller shells, top them with the sauce, and just plop a dollop of cheese on top - all the same great flavors, none of the tedious work!

The zesty sauce enhanced the sweetness of the cheese, and the creaminess of the cheese complemented the warmth of the sauce. It was a perfect easy dinner that seemed far more luxurious than its simplicity would normally offer ....

Deconstructed Un-Stuffed Shells


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • generous pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 6 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 pound pasta shells, prepared according to package directions
  • 1/3 cup Ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup Cottage cheese
  • Parmesan cheese, for serving
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, onion, and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, wine, and salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and cook for 5 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Place the prepared shells onto a serving platter, and spoon the sauce over them. Stir together the Ricotta cheese and Cottage cheese; place a dollop onto the center of the sauce, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 generously.

7 comments:

Jenn said...

Oohhh... YUM! Love this idea. I too am a huge fan of stuffed shells.. this is a great little twist on that dish!

Andrea the Kitchen Witch said...

I haven't made stuffed shells in years because it's such a drag to make for the cook. This is a great idea - and what an easy dinner! Can't wait to try this out Mary, I know my family will enjoy it thoroughly!

Robin said...

I wonder if you could bake it somehow so that you still get a little bit of the crispy around the shell edges in places. There is something about the baked shells that is appealing, but I can also see the appealing in not having to stuff the things. You are smart. There has to be a way to get the bang out of that buck. Plus, I also like the cheese after it has been baked and not just heated. Hmmmm. I know that your great mind can push through this mystery. I have no great cooking mind. So you can count me out.

Candace said...

I am loving this idea of not stuffing the shells. All of the yum without all of the work. Brilliant!

Cranberry Morning said...

This is a great idea and makes perfect sense to me! I think those looking for crispy could put this concoction in a casserole dish and bake it. But I'm hungry NOW.

Yenta Mary said...

You could toss together the pasta and the sauce and the creamy cheese, then dump it all into a casserole dish rather than stuffing the larger shells individually. Then you could sprinkle the mozzarella on top and bake it. I admit readily that the crispy, gooey, caramelized cheese on top is fabulous! But again, it means waiting for dinner when you know full well you're going to shove cookies into your mouth while you pace if you don't eat RIGHT NOW. But if you combined everything then baked it, that would still take far less time than the traditional method ....

Chris said...

I can't believe that you didn't care enough about your readers to individually stuff each of these shells ;) :) :p

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