Cheesey, Saucy Stuffed Pasta Shells

These shells are the perfect balance of pasta, meat, sauce, and cheese. Anyone you share these with, if you choose to be generous, will be hard pressed to say no to seconds (or thirds, or…). An added bonus: you can make them in advance and freeze them for a quick weeknight meal. Serve with garlic bread, and you’re a quintessential Italian.

Stuffed Pasta Shells

Serves: 4 (or 6 as a side)

Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

You’ll need:

  • 1 box of giant pasta shells
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. oregano
  • 2 tsp. basil
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese (divided)
  • 1 jar marinara sauce (16 oz)

1. Prepare pasta according to packaging directions. My box gave me two cooking times: 1 to eat the shells right out of the pot, and one to prepare them for baking. Choose the “bake them” figure, or subtract two minutes from the “eat them” time.

2. Reserve 1/3 cup of your cooking water once they are done, and drain the shells. Set them aside to cool.

3. Cook your ground beef. Drain off any fat. Add to the pan your reserved pasta water, garlic powder, oregano, basil, parmesan, and 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Mix to combine.

4. Cover the bottom of a 9×13 inch glass pan with a thin layer of marinara sauce.

5. Fill each shell with a scoop of beef mixture, and lay it in the 9×13. Continue until all of the beef is used. Cover with remaining marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese.

6. If you’re going to freeze the shells for later, this is the point at which you would do so. If you’re not, cover with foil, bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil, bake for 3 more minutes, or until cheese gets a little brown.

7. Serve with garlic bread and a little more parmesan cheese–if that’s your thing.

To cook from frozen: allow it to thaw in the fridge all day, and then pick up at step #6. Enjoy!

What other make-ahead/freezer meals do you like?

If you’re interested…..lasagna and from scratch pasta.

Shredded Beef Enchiladas

After being gone for a week, Bob is back home. Oh happy day! While he was gone, I spent an embarrassing amount of time knitting and watching Downton Abbey (I’m almost done with Season 3!). Anyone who follows me on Instagram is probably sick of seeing my coffee table, knitting needles, and status updates on the latest happenings at the Abbey. Needless to say, it’s good he’s home.

IMG_20150215_140318We celebrated his return (and the end to his long, exhausting week) with these delicious enchiladas. After sitting in the crock pot all day, the beef was so juicy, it positively fell apart. Add the cheese and tortillas, and oh man. Do yourself a favor and give this one a try. It’s perfect winter comfort food.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShredded Beef Enchiladas

Based on Iowa Girl Eats

Serves 4

You’ll need:

  • 2 lb beef roast
  • 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
  • 3 tsp. minced garlic (or 3 garlic cloves, minced)
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. each, salt and pepper
  • 4 oz can of diced green chilis
  • 10-12 tortillas
  • 8 oz. block of Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 10 oz. can of enchilada sauce
  • Toppings! Suggestions: sour cream, guacamole, salsa, cilantro

1. Trim any excess fat from your beef roast, cut into 6 pieces, and put in crock pot. Add onion, garlic, beef broth, cumin, and salt and pepper. Set crock pot on low for 6-7 hours.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2. When it’s done, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Remove beef and onions from broth, and shred beef with a fork. Add green chilies.

3. In a 9×13 pan, pour 2-3 Tbs enchilada sauce–enough to just coat the bottom of the dish.

4. Assemble enchiladas: warm up your tortillas by wrapping in damp paper towel and microwaving for a minute. Add beef/onion mixture to the center, top with a bit of cheese, roll, and place seam-side down in the pan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA5. Keep going until all of the beef and onion is wrapped into tortillas and in the pan. Stacking them on top of each other is totally acceptable. Top with the remaining enchilada sauce and cheese.

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20150216_1705176. Spray tin foil with non-stick spray. Cover pan with the sprayed side down (it keeps the cheese from sticking). Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove tin foil. Bake another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let it sit for 5 minutes before you serve.

7. Topping suggestions: avocado/guacamole, sour cream, salsa, diced tomatoes, and cilantro. We went with guacamole, sour cream, and salsa this time around, and it was delicious!

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Enjoy!

Pasties: the food

Before any of you get the wrong idea, this pasty is a food. Pronounce it so that it rhymes with “nasty,” not “tasty.” Though, they really are tasty. Not nasty. I promise. Anyway,  they are extremely popular in the upper peninsula of Michigan. As the boyfriend lived in the UP for 5 years, they’re pretty popular in his book as well. So we made pasties for dinner!

Plan on almost 2 hours from the time you start until the time you can eat. Though time consuming, these are great food to make ahead. Store left overs in the fridge or freezer for easy grab and go eats.

Beef Pasties

Adapted from Pasty Recipes. Yield: 10-12 pasties

First, start by making your dough. This is much like pie crust dough, don’t be scared.

  1. Mix 6 cups of flour with 1 Tbs. of salt.
  2. Using a pastry blender, cut in 1 1/2 cups of cold butter.
  3. Add cold water, tablespoon by tablespoon until it just barely combines into a ball. The amount of water that you need will vary, but it will be approximately 12 tablespoons. Try very hard not to get the dough too moist; this will make the end product dense, and you’re going for light and flaky.
  4. If you need to do some light kneading with your hands, feel free, but be aware that too much will melt the butter.
  5. Chill dough in the fridge while you make the filling.

While your dough is chilling, you need to get chopping. I highly recommend enlisting in help!

Chop:

  • 5 carrots
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 1/2 cup of rutabaga or turnip

Mix it all together with 2 tsp. of salt and 1 tsp. of pepper.

Add 2 lbs of ground beef (or other ground meat of choice) and mix it in.

Now the fun part! Fetch your dough from the fridge and form it into a log. Chop it into 10 or 12 disks. Whatever floats your boat.

Using a rolling pin or a wine bottle, roll each disk of dough out. I highly recommend rolling the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper. This keeps it from sticking and tearing when you pull it off the table.

After each disk is rolled, dump some of the filling in the middle. Use enough filling that you can barely close the top of the dough. Bring the sides of the dough together in the center so that it all seals into a lovely pocket of pasty goodness.

Stab holes in the top of each pasty so that the steam can escape.

Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. After 30 minutes, pull them out at baste the tops with melted butter.

After they come out of the oven, make your gravy. Combine in a saucepan:

  • two beef bouillon cubes
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 cups water

Heat it until it combines into the consistency you prefer. Serve pasties with gravy on top.

What a perfect way to spend a Friday night! Serve up with a nice glass of red wine or a bottle of your favorite brew.

I wanna know: Do you have a favorite regional food? Have you ever tried to make it?