March 29, 2011

A Mouthwatering Meal to Make Everyone Happy: Stuffed Shells with Sausage and Mushroom Sauce

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When Bryan was a kid, one of the favorite meals mom would make would be stuffed shells. Normally, these were reserved for special occasions like Christmas Eve, but every once in a while they'd make their way onto the weekly menu and be a big hit.

I'm the big hit now, just in case you were wondering. 
What makes mom's stuffed shells (and also her lasagna) so great is the stuffing. You can get stuffed shells at a restaurant, but the cheese filling will always be mediocre, and unfortunately, that's like 90% of the dish. It will be one dimensional, runny, mealy, just not that great. That's what sets mom's recipe (and now, ours) apart. The filling makes the dish. And now, we complement it with a few helpful cooking tips as well as our delicious sauce, and this is truly a standout, gourmet version of an old standby that will have you reaching across the table for seconds.

Making the Dish
What You'll Need

1 lb large shells

For the filling:
2 cups ricotta
1/2 cup pecorino romano
1/2 cup buffalo mozzarella
egg lightly beaten
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
dash cayenne pepper

For the sauce: 
1 link sweet italian sausage
portobello mushroom tops chopped
4 cups tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
dash cayenne pepper

The sauce is going to take the longest because it needs to simmer. So, start with your traditional tomato sauce, doesn't matter what the recipe is (or you can use a jar of sauce at the store). Slice some garlic, chop some portobello mushrooms, and start cooking them over olive oil. Remove your sausage from the casing, and add it to your simmering veggies.

Removing the sausage from the casing. 

Break it apart and let it cook down. You can also add some salt, pepper, and fennel seed at this point. You want your sausage to caramelize but not cook completely, it will finish cooking in the sauce. Once that's done, remove everything from the heat and drain out the fat. Let this rest on paper towel while you heat up your sauce.

Delicious meat and veggie mixture on a paper towel. 

In a saucepan, heat up your sauce (about 4 cups worth), and add to it a half cup of dry red wine, about a quarter cup of basil cut in a chiffonade, salt, pepper, and a dash of cayenne pepper. Stir it all around and bring it to a boil.

Adding the basil into the tomato sauce. 

Then, add in the sausage, mushroom, and garlic you cooked earlier and bring the whole mix down to a simmer.

The mushroom and sausage mixture is added to the tomato sauce. 

Next, you can start your noodles and filling. Start by bringing a pot of water to boil, salt it, and once it has started to boil, add in your shells and cook until 2 minutes shy of the package directions. This is really important! The shells will finish cooking with the sauce in the oven, and if you cook them too long in the water, they'll be mushy when you take them out of the oven. Go for two minutes less and your final product will be perfectly al dente. Oh, and they're also way easier to fill like this.

Creamy ricotta cheese. 
For the filling, you'll add two cups of the best quality ricotta you can find to a large mixing bowl. To that, you'll add one large egg, beaten, 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano, 1/2 cup shredded fresh buffalo mozzarella, a teaspoon of salt and pepper, a half teaspoon of nutmeg, and a dash of cayenne pepper. Finally, add about 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley. Mix it all together until it is well blended, and then let sit in the refrigerator until your noodles finish cooking. 

The ricotta with all of the ingredients added in. 
Once the noodles are done, take them out of the water and rinse them with cold water. This will help slow down the cooking as well as cool them off so they're easier to handle. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, then take a baking dish and layer the bottom with some of your sauce, and start filling the noodles with the filling. 

Rinsing the noodles in cold water. 
Using a spoon, take some of the mix and fill it into the shell until it is stuffed to the brim. Place it on the baking dish with the opening facing up, and then repeat until all the shells are stuffed. 

Stuffing the shell. 
When they're all done, fill up the baking dish with the remaining sauce so that the shells are covered on all sides with your sauce. 

Shells are added to the baking dish after they are stuffed. 
Pop the baking dish in the oven and let it cook for about 15 - 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it to make sure the tops are not burning. 

The baking dish fully filled and ready to go into the oven. 
Once it's done, take it out, let it rest for about 10 minutes, and you've got yourself a wonderful meal of stuffed shells that will satisfy everyone!

And this delicious looking thing is what comes out. 
The Wine

We really like carbonated wines, and we really like muscat, so this seemed like a wonderful combination. It's a Martini Rossi Mustaco d'Asti, and is light and flavorful, but a little on the sweet side. For the price though, a really nice accompaniment to any dish, assuming you like sweet wine.

The Result

These stuffed shells are awesome. The filling is rich, creamy, and succulent, and the sauce is savory sweet with nice, hearty chunks of mushroom and sausage creating an addictive texture. You'll want to eat these fast, but be careful, they're quite filling!

Serve two on a plate with some extra sauce, and cover with freshly grated pecorino romano cheese, and enjoy. You can thank us after you're done eating :)

I'll trade you this carrot for a shell. 
This is one of our favorite Italian dishes. What's yours? Let us know your favorite in the comments below!


  1. Neat Blog, beautiful cat.

  2. Um deu agua na boca!!!!!!!!!!!!! .
    E que gatinho mais fofo!!!!!!!!!!!

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  4. Love your recipes, but how do you print them?


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