My March Madness and Take-A-Breather Stuffed Shells

I can’t believe I haven’t posted in over two weeks; the volume of activity, particularly kiddie-related planning, has been relentless.

In just one week, Ken will be one of fifty seventh graders headed to Florida for five days of scientific exploration and activity.  His last planning meeting is today, but I’m pretty sure we have everything on the recommended packing list.

It’s his first trip away from us where he’s not with other family members; he’ll be sharing a room with his three buddies, so I figure he won’t miss us at all (one giant sleepover).  I, on the other, hand, will probably have several emotional relapses that will assuredly have Tina, Grace and Kurt rolling on the floor.  Whatever.

This Mama’s March Madness continued with finding dates for violin auditions and rehearsals, helping Ken assemble an art portfolio, submitting his Doodle4Google, and receiving the news that Ken was selected to be part of an exchange program with students at a school in England.  His last passport expired about 4 years ago.

Oh, and the usual family madness about the Easter menu.  At one point, I actually suggested Indian fare for Easter.  DID.  NOT.  GO.  OVER.  WELL.

Just as the activity slowed down, Ken and I ran up to Boston for a few days over spring break before Easter.  We were lucky; the weather was not frigid.  In fact, it snowed in DC while we were up north.  We rode the elevator up to the Prudential’s Skywalk (it was a beautiful day),

Fenway, from the Prudential

Fenway, from the Prudential

took a tour of the new Boston Tea Party museum, visited the Museum of Fine Arts where Ken sketched a few pictures, and heard the Boston Cardinal celebrate Palm Sunday Mass at the Cathedral.

One of the tea ships

One of the tea ships

We skipped the aquarium since the center tank was down, but hopped on the trolley tour so Ken could get a better feel of the city.  We had ramen in the South End,

Tonkotsu ramen from Yakitori Zai!  Delish!

Tonkotsu ramen from Yakitori Zai! Delish!

burgers in the Back Bay, pho on Harvard Square and our big splurge was the Langham’s Chocolate Bar.  Ken said it was one of the best trips we’ve done together!

Just a fraction of what we tried at the Chocolate Bar!

Just a fraction of what we tried at the Chocolate Bar!

Of course, I got sick (it seems that post-transplant, I get sick whenever I travel), but was well enough to pull together a classic, if not super foodie exciting, Easter meal:  pissaladiere to start, followed by garlicky rosemary roast lamb, grilled eggplant marinated in a tomato vinaigrette, mashed potatoes (Grace made these), and asparagus with (blender) hollandaise sauce.  I had never made blender hollandaise and highly recommend it; it’s foolproof!  The Barefoot Contessa recipe is here.

I also made a new dessert, based on seeing it on a recorded episode of Extra Virgin– a chocolate hazelnut torte, made with almost 2 cups of Nutella, that I served with both whipped cream and vanilla Haagen Dazs.  You can get the recipe here.  I couldn’t find any whole hazelnuts, but Grace thought the hazelnuts would have ruined the texture.

Tonight I’m making stuffed shells with some homemade ricotta I made yesterday.  There are no activities tonight, so we can chill out and relax this evening!

Stuffed Shells

  • 1/2 box jumbo shells (about 20)
  • 2 cups ricotta (homemade if you feel like it)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella, divided
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 TB fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 extra large egg, beaten
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce
Three cheeses and some herbs!

Three cheeses and some herbs!

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a large casserole with cooking spray.  Cook the shells per package directions (about 12 minutes, just shy of al dente).  Drain and rinse shells.

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, half the mozzarella, the Parmesan, oregano, parsley and salt and pepper to taste.

Mix the cheese and seasonings first, then taste for seasoning before adding the egg binder

Mix the cheese and seasonings first, then taste for seasoning before adding the egg binder

Mix thoroughly, and correct seasonings.  Add the beaten egg and mix well; the mixture should be scoopable, but not runny.

It doesn't look like one egg will do, but it does

It doesn’t look like one egg will do, but it does

Fill the shells with about 2 TB of filling; you don’t want to over stuff them, but there should be enough filling to hold the shell’s shape.

The shells should not be bulging with filling!

The shells should not be overly stuffed with filling!

When all shells are stuffed, lightly coat the bottom of the oiled casserole with some of the sauce.

Just a thin coat so the shells won't stick!

Just a thin coat so the shells won’t stick!

Arrange the shells into the casserole in a single layer; you may have to squeeze them a bit to fit all.

Snuggled in, but not squashed

Snuggled in, but not squashed

Pour the remaining sauce over and around the shells, ensuring each is coated with some sauce.  Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella over the sauce.

A lot of cheese for a gooey topping!

A lot of cheese for a gooey topping!

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until sauce is bubbling.  If the cheese on top gets too brown, cover the casserole with a sheet of foil.  Remove dish from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes.

Ooey.  Gooey.  Yummy.

Ooey. Gooey. Yummy.

Let them dig in!  I made my ricotta with organic whole milk and cream and the filling was luscious and rich– a nice contrast with the acid in the tomato sauce!

Like mini-lasagnas!

Like mini-lasagnas!

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6 Comments

Filed under Baked Goods, Desserts, Family, Fancy Cakes, Food, Main Dishes

6 responses to “My March Madness and Take-A-Breather Stuffed Shells

  1. Kimberly W

    Chocolate hazelnut torte! Yum. So glad to have your blog back 🙂

  2. Amy

    Letting things rest 10-15 minutes after taking out of the oven is always the hard part for me.

  3. They look delicious! I really need to visit that chocolate bar. Lovely – thanks for sharing.

  4. I think I will try making these with my children – they will love the huge shells.

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