Monday, 19 December 2011

Stuffed Shells

I talked to a friend today who told me 'at least [I] do something other than write a blog...' since I don't wan't to seem like a workaholic (I really am NOT a workaholic - if there's a new episode of Pan Am or Hart of Dixie or Once Upon a Time or anything else along those lines I will drop everything to watch said episode, so that is proof enough that there is no workaholicness going on, right? And yes, I know my taste in TV shows is debatable) I am finally getting around to finishing this post.
The lesson we should have learned from this is that the only way I get stuff done is if someone makes me feel like a workaholic...or something along those lines :)

Believe it or not, but this was the first time I made stuffed shells. And I am in love. None of that awkwardness you have when you're stuffing cannelloni or the boringness of lasagne. Don't expect me to make either again anytime soon. I used Heidi Swanson's recipe from a few months ago for quantities and the amount of filling was perfect to make enough shells for a large (32cm) baking dish. For some reason I had a blonde moment when I thew the entire pack of shells into the pot (I ended up using about half of them...oops, but they made a really nice dinner later on).
Anyhow, I was originally planning on giving this recipe a slightly fancier name - I wanted to call them autumnal stuffed shells (because they have butternut squash in them) or something similar but the fact that Christmas is just around the corner and it's definitely not autumn anymore stopped me from going for that option. 
Unfortunately that meant I was out of ideas. So we're stuck with the boring name. And a not so exciting photo because I haven't mastered the art of taking nice pictures at night.
So, let's make some stuffed shells to impress someone cute (or very lovely flatmates in my case)!
And if you want some music to listen to while cooking, how about some Foreign Slippers.

Stuffed Shells

2 large tins Peeled Plum Tomatoes 
A generous splash of Olive Oil
Ground Cinnamon
1 Clove Garlic, crushed
Salt & Pepper

250g peeled & roasted Butternut Squash
250g Ricotta Cheese
1 Egg
100g Parmesan Cheese
Zest of 1/2 Lemon
Some Salt, Pepper & Nutmeg

Some dried Pasta Shells (Heidi suggests about 25-30 shells)

If you haven't roasted your butternut squash already, do so now.

Then, make a simple tomato sauce. Pour some olive oil into a pan and add the garlic, then turn on the heat.

Wait until your kitchen smells all garlicky (not burnt!) then add the tomatoes. Simmer at a medium heat while you put a pot with enough water on for the pasta.

Boil the pasta until it's al dente (Heidi says the shells will tear if you overcook them, since I listened to her and had no problems I can't tell you whether they'll tear but they were easy enough to handle so save yourself some time and drain them sooner rather than later).

While the pasta is bubbling away (by the way, don't forget about the tomato sauce, give it a stir every once in a while and season it with some salt, pepper and a teaspoon or so of cinnamon) return to the butternut squash.
Mash the squash  - yes, I had to go there - and whisk it together with the ricotta, then add the parmesan cheese and lemon zest. Unless you're into eating raw egg, season the filling now, then whisk in the egg.

Preheat your oven to 180˚C.

Rinse the pasta with some cold water so they're not too hot to handle.

Spread out about 1/3 of the tomato sauce in your baking dish.

Fill the shells with about one tablespoon filling each and set them in the baking dish. Sing along to your music to stop yourself from falling asleep while doing so :)

Once your baking dish is filled or you have run out of shells, spread the remainder of the tomato sauce on top of the shells and bake for about 45 minutes.

I hope you have a fabulous week and are getting as excited about all the food you'll eat over Christmas as I am!


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